So the National Rifle Association has sued the state of Florida over the historic gun-control bill that Gov. Rick Scott signed into law last week.
Let’s settle this.
In its lawsuit filed in federal court, the NRA targets the new minimum age to buy a firearm in Florida, claiming the change violates the Second Amendment by prohibiting “… an entire class of law-abiding, responsible citizens from fully exercising their right to keep and bear arms, namely adults who have reached the age of 18 but are not yet 21.”
At first glance, the legal challenge seems frivolous. Age restrictions are a common practice, whether it’s buying alcohol, holding a job or seeking a marriage license. Yet, there’s still general confusion regarding the appropriate age to buy a gun, which the NRA lawsuit may unwittingly resolve in favor of gun safety.
We believe the lawsuit will expose the absurdity of the gun lobby’s belief that more guns amount to a viable solution to gun violence. It will show just how out of touch the nation’s gun lobby is with the sentiment of most Americans.
And it will prove the emptiness of the NRA’s constant claim that reasonable regulations somehow violate the U.S. Constitution. What the NRA conveniently ignores is that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” is enshrined in the Second Amendment for the express purpose of supporting “a well-regulated militia.” We have come a long way since the 1700s, when service in a state militia was universal (for white males), but it’s clear that the Founders saw the regulation of firearms as not merely permissible but necessary.
Florida already restricts the purchase of handguns to people 21 and over; the new law extends that limit to rifles. Support has risen for this modest tightening of gun laws in the extraordinary four weeks since the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. A new Rasmussen Reports survey found that 67 percent of respondents favor raising the legal age to buy guns to 21.
The NRA has been down this road before. It filed a similar lawsuit when Congress raised the federal minimum age on handgun purchases from 18 to 21. That suit went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case and let stand a lower court ruling on the side of public safety. We anticipate a similar outcome to this latest NRA lawsuit.
The nation’s age restrictions on guns need clarity, and change. Currently, federal law prohibits licensed firearm dealers from selling a handgun to anyone under 21. Yet, those same dealers can legally sell rifles, shotguns and the military-styled “long guns” to 18-year-olds. The federal law is even more lenient for persons who on occasion may sell a weapon from his or her personal collection. It’s 18 for handgun transactions and there is no minimum age limit for “long gun” sales.
It is remarkable that Scott and a host of Florida lawmakers who share “A” or “A+” ratings from the NRA have angered the organization whose sway has installed pro-gun policies in this state for at least two decades.
By banning all firearm sales to those under 21, imposing a three-day waiting period on all handgun purchases and banning bump stocks, they have the NRA and its political acolytes seeing red.
Florida’s new gun law is a big deal, even if the “reform” unwisely provides money to school districts that choose to arm school personnel and utterly ignores the growing cry to ban assault-style weapons. Our state has a knack for shaping America’s gun policy: Think “stand your ground,” a wrong-headed law that started here and quickly spread to other pro-gun states.
But this time, the NRA may have indeed overplayed its hand. The gun lobby’s strict — and selective — interpretation of the Second Amendment will be put to the test in a court of law, after losing in the court of public opinion for years. The U.S. Bill of Rights is sacred but not absolute. Habeas corpus in times of war. Freedom of speech in a crowded theater. And now, AR-15s in our schools.
In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting massacre — the second-worst school shooting in the nation’s history — Florida is taking the gun debate in an unexpectedly productive direction. We look forward to watching the NRA’s dubious lawsuit boomerang — and strengthen the cause of common-sense gun safety.
Bring it on.
Florida’s new gun law is a big deal, even if the ‘reform’ falls short