Palatka Republican Representative files bill that reduces age requirement to purchase a gun

Second Amendment

The age limit has been 21 for five years. The proposed bill would lower the age to 18.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The age limit to purchase a firearm in Florida could drop from 21 to 18. Palatka Republican Representative Bobby Payne filed a bill on Monday that would change the minimum age limit. If passed, the bill would again allow 18-year-olds to buy long guns and rifles. This also includes AR-15s, the same weapon used in the 2018 school shooting in Parkland. 

The current age limit, 21, has been in effect for five years. To Eric Friday, an attorney for the gun rights group Florida Carry, the age limit should never have changed. He said the state is already being sued by the NRA over the 21 age limit. The new bill could make the lawsuit go away. 

“At 18, you’re an adult. There should be absolutely no excuse for the government to deny one of our most basic fundamental civil rights, based on the fact that somebody is 18 and not 21,” Friday said. “They can either pass this law now or get ready to pay the NRA attorney’s fees when they win that case in the 11th circuit.” 

However, local anti-violence advocates believe the age limit should not be reversed. Gale Williams runs Southern Women Against Gun Violence. Williams’ friend, Rhonda Lowe leads Seeking Harmony in Neighborhoods every day, also known as SHINE. The two believe the would-be law would put more young people in Jacksonville in harm’s way. 

“Violence is already on the rise. We really can’t afford to lose any more lives in Jacksonville,” Williams said. 

“There are some things we have to look beyond politics,” Lowe added. 

If the age limit has to be 18 again, both Williams and Lowe believe lawmakers need to counter gun violence by supporting organizations that respond to gun violence in communities. 

“Set something things in place,” Williams said. 

“Set standards. Guidelines,” Lowe chimed in. 

First Coast News reached out to Representative Payne for comment. His legislative aid sent FCN his statement. 

“I filed HB 1543 to ensure all law-abiding adults in Florida can exercise their constitutional rights. Because long guns (shotguns and rifles) can be gifted to 18-20 year olds but cannot be purchased by them, this bill ensures that the Second Amendment rights of all Floridians are no longer conditional on the rights of others. Currently, Florida is among only a handful of states, like Hawaii and New York, who limit long gun sales to those 21 and up. HB 1543 fixes that, reclaiming law-abiding Floridians’ constitutional liberty.”  

If this bill becomes law, it would take effect July 2023.

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