By John Haughey | The Center Square
State law arbitrarily “obliterates” the constitutional rights of 18- to 20-year-old Floridians, attorneys for the National Rifle Association argue in their latest brief in a federal lawsuit challenging the Florida Legislature’s post-Parkland gun-control bill.
NRA lawyers and attorneys for the state filed dueling briefs earlier this month with Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker. Both sides also submitted motions for summary judgment to avoid going to trial Jan. 11. Walker rejected a similar motion from the state in May.
The NRA filed the lawsuit in spring 2018, shortly after the adoption of Senate Bill 7026, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
SB 7026 was a quickly assembled, $400 million response to the Parkland High School shooting that left 17 dead, which occurred Valentine's Day 2018 while lawmakers were in session.
SB 7026 raised the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21, imposed a three-day waiting period to buy firearms, banned bump stocks and granted greater authority for law enforcement to seize weapons under red flag laws.
The NRA quickly challenged the ban, arguing SB 7026 violated the Second Amendment and equal protection rights. The case, however, proceeded slowly because of a preliminary dispute over allowing plaintiffs to participate anonymously with the NRA.
In their Sept. 3 motion, NRA attorneys argue the state has a legitimate interest in public safety, particularly in schools, but “cannot show the ban (on sales to those under 21) is the least restrictive means to advance that interest. Nor could any ban be.”
Restricting sales to those 21 years old and older “infringes the right of all 18-to-20-year-olds to exercise their Second Amendment rights, even for self-defense in the home. The ban does not just limit the right,” NRA attorneys conclude, “it obliterates it.”
The NRA maintains SB 7026 was not narrowly tailored and is unconstitutional because it “burdens significantly more protected conduct than necessary to advance public safety.”
“There is at most a speculative relationship between the purpose of the ban, enhancing public safety, particularly in schools, and the means chosen to achieve it: a wholesale prohibition on the purchase of firearms by all 18-to-20-year-old adult citizens,” NRA lawyers wrote. “The ban is neither limited to 18-to-20-year-old adults who are still in some form of schooling nor does it contain any school-related provision whatsoever. Instead, it applies to an age group that is entirely beyond compulsory schooling.”
State attorneys maintain 18- to 20-year-old Floridians still have the right to possess a firearm but are restricted from legally purchasing one. People between the ages 18-20 are a “particularly high-risk group,” the state argued.
“Empirical evidence bears out that because 18-to-20-year-olds are uniquely likely to engage in impulsive, emotional, and risky behaviors that offer immediate or short-term rewards,” the state’s motion reads. “Drawing the line for legal purchase of firearms at 21 is a reasonable method of addressing the Legislature’s public safety concerns."
Gun-control groups, including Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, he Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Team ENOUGH, Orange Ribbons for Gun Safety and March For Our Lives Action Fund also have filed briefs in support of the state.
“The Parkland shooting inspired thousands of students and citizens across the country to demand that their leaders enact gun safety measures like (SB 7026),” Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s brief reads. “These laws enjoy broad and bipartisan public support and have extraordinary potential to save lives.”