(The Center Square) – The National Rifle Association is “considering its next moves” after a federal judge upheld a 2018 Florida law prohibiting anyone under 21-years-old from legally buying a firearm.
“While this decision is a setback, NRA-ILA remains dedicated to protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens everywhere,” the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), said Friday. “NRA-ILA will this decision in the days to come and decide the best method in which to pursue that goal.”
Unified Sportsmen of Florida Executive Director and NRA Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer in email statements said the NRA “is considering its next moves” in challenging gun control measures adopted by lawmakers after the Valentine’s Day 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 dead.
Chief U.S. Northern District of Florida Judge Mark Walker Thursday issued a 48-page ruling upholding the 2018 law, which also imposed a 3-day waiting period to buy firearms, banned “bump stocks” and granted greater authority to seize weapons under “red flag” laws.
Walker cited as precedent the landmark 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller that struck down a D.C. law that banned handgun possession and upheld the fundamental individual right to own a firearm.
While a sweeping victory for gun-owners’ rights, the Court also stated that sustaining “longstanding prohibitions” on firearms possession does not violate the Second Amendment.
“In short, Heller’s listed regulations are similar to restrictions on the purchase of firearms by 18-to-20-year-olds; all target specific groups thought to be especially dangerous with firearms,” Walker wrote.
The NRA filed suit in spring 2018 shortly after the adoption of Senate Bill 7026, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, challenging the constitutionality of denying 18-20 year old’s the right to purchase rifles, shotguns and other long guns. Federal law bars sales of handguns to people under 21.
SB 7026 was a quickly-assembled $400 million response to the Parkland shooting, which occurred while lawmakers were in session.
The measure – Florida’s most significant gun-control legislation in decades – drew little opposition as it fast-tracked through the Republican-controlled Legislature and was swiftly signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott.
The NRA’s vows to make Florida Republicans who supported SB 7026 pay at the ballot box fell flat in 2018 and 2020 elections, but its 2018 lawsuit had remained on federal court dockets for nearly 40 months.
Defending SB 7026 pulled strange bedfellows together. Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Attorney General Ashley Moody sympathized with the NRA’s case while campaigning, but once in office, battled to uphold it.
The state was supported by briefs from gun control groups, including Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, The Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Team Enough, Orange Ribbons for Gun Safety and March For Our Lives Action Fund.
Although Walker upheld SB 7026, he raised questions about disparity in the law that “falls squarely in the middle of a constitutional no man’s land.”
“After Florida suffered one of the worst school shootings in our nation’s history, its Legislature faced a colossal challenge, forced to make difficult decisions while under tremendous time pressure. This Court does not envy the difficult balance the Legislature had to strike,” Walker wrote. “That said, this Court has grave concerns about the balance the Legislature struck.”
Among concerns, he said, is applying the law to people who cannot get guns from relatives and not to those who can.
“Why should the 20-year-old single mother living on her own be unable to obtain a firearm for self-defense when a 20-year-old living with their parents can easily obtain one?” Walker asked.