Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) signed SB 7026, the Majory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act, into law today. The bill would allow some teachers to carry firearms on campus, it allocated significant funding (approximately $500 million) to school safety, it imposed a 3-day waiting period on all firearm sales, and raised the age from 18 to 21 for all firearm purchases including shotguns and rifles. It also included some items related to mental health issues.
The bill was opposed by most Democrats in the legislature because they were against letting teachers have the opportunity to defend students with more than harsh words. They were also upset that it didn’t include universal background checks and a state assault weapons ban (sic).
After the signing, the Florida Democratic Party reiterated its opposition to the bill, which was touted as bipartisan since it passed both chambers with GOP and Democratic votes. FDP chair Terrie Rizzo said the governor and Legislature didn’t go nearly far enough.
The ban on the sale of firearms to those between the ages of 18 and 21 did not apply to law enforcement, correctional officers, or those serving in the military. The law would make it a felony for a licensed individual to sell the firearm and for a person to buy the firearm. Moreover, it also prohibited the private sale of handguns to those under the age of 21.
Within an hour of Gov. Scott signing SB 7026, the National Rifle Association filed suit in US District Court for the Northern District of Florida on behalf of their members in Florida. The suit was filed against Attorney General Pam Bondi and Commissioner of the Department of Law Enforcement Rick Swearingen in their official capacities. The suit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against the bill on the basis that it unconstitutionally discriminates against 18 to 20 years by denying them both their Second Amendment rights and their 14th Amendment Due Process rights. It also seek an order enjoining the enforcement of FLA. STAT. § 790.065(13) by the defendants, their employees, and agents and from enforcing the ban on the sales of firearms to those aged 18 to 20.
16. Independent provisions of federal law also already significantly
constrain the right of adult citizens under the age of 21 to purchase firearms. Under
18 U.S.C. § 922(b)(1), a federally licensed firearm dealer may not sell to any
individual under the age of 21 any handgun—the “quintessential self-defense
weapon” which is “the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense
in the home.” Heller, 554 U.S. at 629. Florida’s new ban broadens these
preexisting limits, by (1) extending the ban to rifles and shotguns, in addition to
handguns, and (2) prohibiting these law-abiding, adult citizens from purchasing
these firearms from any source, not just federally licensed dealers (i.e., those who
are “engaged in the business of selling firearms at wholesale or retail.” 18 U.S.C. §
17. The effect of Florida’s age-based ban is to impose a significant,
unequal, and impermissible burden on the right to keep and bear arms of a class of
millions of law-abiding 18-to-20 year-old adult citizens.
The suit seeks both a facial and as-applied declaration that the new law is unconstitutional. With regard to the as-applied challenge, the complaint says:
32. This ban particularly infringes upon, and imposes an impermissible
burden upon, the Second Amendment rights of those NRA Members described
above who are female. Females between the ages of 18 and 21 pose a relatively
slight risk of perpetrating a school shooting such as the one that occurred at
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, or, for that matter, a violent crime of any
kind. For example, in 2015, women in this age group accounted for only 1.8% of
arrests for violent crime, while males in the same age bracket accounted for 8.7%
of such arrests—and males between the ages of 21 and 24, who may lawfully
purchase firearms under current law, accounted for 9.2%. See Federal Bureau of
Investigation, Crime in the United States: 2015 tbls. 39 and 40, available at
https://goo.gl/8pVWnb; see also BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, WOMEN
OFFENDERS at 2, 13 (2009) (female offenders responsible for only 14% of violent
crimes, and only 10% of female offenders aged 18-20), available at
https://goo.gl/3qAJXu. Regardless of its facial validity, Florida’s ban is therefore
unconstitutional, void, and invalid as applied to women between the ages of 18 and
The full complaint can be found here.