TALLAHASSEE, Fla .– While claiming that the case “sits squarely in the middle of a constitutional no-man’s-land,” a federal judge upheld a 2018 Florida law that prohibits people under the age of 21 from purchasing fire arms.
The 48-page ruling by U.S. Chief District Judge Mark Walker came more than three years after the Republican-controlled legislature and the government of the day. Rick Scott rushed to approve the restriction following a massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 people.
The National Rifle Association challenged the constitutionality of the law, which prevented the sale of rifles, shotguns and other long guns to people between the ages of 18 and 20. Federal law already prohibited the sale of handguns to people under the age of 21.
Walker, in his ruling last week, traced historic gun restrictions and court rulings and said he was following legal precedents. In part, he focused on a landmark 2008 United States Supreme Court case known as District of Columbia v. Heller.
While the Heller case is widely seen as a major victory for gun rights supporters, she also said some “long-standing gun bans” do not violate the Second Amendment, the ruling says. by Walker.
The Heller case cited bans on things such as criminals and mentally ill people owning firearms, Walker concluded that restrictions on people between the ages of 18 and 20 who buy firearms were ” analogous ”to the restrictions cited in the Heller case.
“In short, the regulations listed by Heller are similar to the restrictions on the purchase of firearms by 18 to 20 year olds; all target specific groups who are considered particularly dangerous with firearms, ”he wrote.
But Walker’s decision also raised questions about the law, which would not prevent people under the age of 21, for example, from receiving guns from family members. Walker acknowledged a “colossal challenge” that lawmakers faced following the shooting of Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
“That said, this court has serious concerns about the balance achieved by the legislature,” Walker wrote. “Although the act seems broad at first glance, as the defendant (the State) argues, many young people between the ages of 18 and 20 who wish to obtain a firearm will be able to do so through their parents or other relatives. Whether it is an effective check against rash decision making, this court cannot say. But it’s clear that this law will have little impact on many, if not most, Floridians between the ages of 18 and 20. In short, then, we do not know to what extent the law does to prevent tragedies like that of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “
Walker also raised questions about how the law would apply to people who cannot obtain weapons from loved ones.
“Worse yet, these 18 to 20 year olds in particular are likely to be the ones who really need guns to defend themselves; they are probably independent, likely to live in dangerous neighborhoods and have their own families and children, ”he wrote. “Why couldn’t the 20-year-old single mother living alone get a gun to defend herself when a 20-year-old living with her parents can easily get one?” “
The ban on the sale of weapons to people under the age of 21 was part of a sweeping bill passed after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz was accused of using a semi-automatic weapon during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, his former high school. Cruz is still awaiting his trial for murder.
In a court document last year, the NRA argued that the law violates the Second Amendment and equal protection rights.
“While Florida has an interest in promoting public safety, especially in schools, it cannot show that the ban is the least restrictive way to advance that interest. No ban could be either, ”the NRA lawyers wrote. “The ban violates the right of all 18 to 20 year olds to buy firearms for the exercise of their Second Amendment rights, even for self-defense at home. The prohibition not only limits the right, it erases it. Prohibition cannot be the least restrictive alternative. There is also no evidence on the record that the legislature considered the availability of less restrictive alternatives. “
But state attorneys wrote that people between the ages of 18 and 20 are a “particularly high-risk group” and pointed to scientific evidence on impulsive and risky behavior.
“Empirical evidence confirms that, because young people between the ages of 18 and 20 are particularly likely to engage in impulsive, emotional and risky behaviors that offer immediate or short-term rewards, drawing the line for the legal purchase of “Guns at 21 are a reasonable method of addressing the legislature’s public safety concerns,” the state said in a court document.
© 2021 Cox Media Group