Texas case could help determine fate of Florida gun sales law

Second Amendment

TALLAHASSEE — A pending U.S. Supreme Court case could help decide the fate of a Florida law that prevents sales of rifles and other long guns to people under age 21.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday told attorneys for the National Rifle Association and the state that they should wait to file briefs about the constitutionality of the Florida law until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a Texas gun case.

At a minimum, that means the Atlanta-based appeals court likely will not rule on the Florida law until at least sometime in 2024 — more than six years after the age restriction was passed following the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The underlying details of the Florida and Texas cases are different: The Texas case involves a challenge to the constitutionality of a federal law that has barred gun possession by people under domestic-violence restraining orders. The U.S. Department of Justice took the case to the Supreme Court in March after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the law violated Second Amendment rights.

But the Texas and Florida cases share key questions about how to carry out a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court opinion in a case known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which said gun laws must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

The Supreme Court on June 30 agreed to hear the Texas case, though it has not scheduled arguments. The full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said July 14 it would hear the Florida case, after a three-judge panel had earlier upheld the age restriction.

Florida lawmakers passed the restriction after Nikolas Cruz, who was 19 at the time, used an AR-15 rifle to kill 17 students and staff members and injure 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Federal law already prohibited the sale of handguns to people under 21.

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