A bill that would lower the minimum age from 21 to 18 to purchase rifles and shotguns was approved Tuesday by a House panel, but its future remains in doubt as the proposal has not been filed in the Senate.
The bill (HB 1223), approved by the Republican-controlled House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, would reverse an age requirement that was included in a school-safety law passed after the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
The House approved a bill last year to lower the minimum age from 21 to 18, but the Senate did not take up the measure.
“I don’t make my decisions on what bills I want to run based on what the Senate is doing,” bill sponsor Bobby Payne, R-Palatka, said Tuesday. “I make those decisions based on what I feel is part of my fundamental belief, (and) part of my fundamental beliefs is on issues such as constitutional rights.”
Federal law prohibits people under 21 from purchasing handguns.
“It feels like this is a messaging bill, because I don’t know if it is moving on the other side (in the Senate) and if it’s going to get to the governor,” Rep. Michele Rayner, D-St. Petersburg, said. “And if that is truly what this is, I would say this is not the message we want to send to Floridians and the state of Florida.”
Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis, D-Ocoee, asked, “what has changed since 2018?”
The Legislature and then-Gov. Rick Scott, now a U.S. senator, approved the law after Nikolas Cruz, then 19, killed 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Cruz, who has been sentenced to life in prison in the murders, used a semi-automatic rifle to carry out the attack.
The law drew a legal challenge from the National Rifle Association, which contends that it violates Second Amendment rights. A federal district judge upheld the age restriction, but the case remains pending at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Asked about the proposal during a campaign stop Tuesday in Tallahassee, Scott said he was proud of the legislation and, “I support what we passed.”