NRA’s case against Fla. weak, but may help us


So the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion has sued the state of Florida over the his­toric gun-con­trol bill that Gov. Rick Scott signed into law last week.


Let’s set­tle this.

In its law­suit filed in fed­eral court, the NRA tar­gets the new min­i­mum age to buy a firearm in Florida, claim­ing the change vi­o­lates the Sec­ond Amend­ment by pro­hibit­ing “... an en­tire class of law-abid­ing, re­spon­si­ble ci­ti­zens from fully ex­er­cis­ing their right to keep and bear arms, namely adults who have reached the age of 18 but are not yet 21.”

At first glance, the le­gal chal­lenge seems friv­o­lous. Age re­stric­tions are a com­mon prac­tice, whether it’s buy­ing al­co­hol, hold­ing a job or seek­ing a mar­riage li­cense. Yet, there’s still gen­eral con­fu­sion re­gard­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate age to buy a gun, which the NRA law­suit may un­wit­tingly re­solve in fa­vor of gun safety.

We be­lieve the law­suit will ex­pose the ab­sur­dity of the gun lobby’s be­lief that more guns amount to a vi­able so­lu­tion to gun vi­o­lence. It will show just how out of touch the na­tion’s gun lobby is with the sen­ti­ment of most Amer­i­cans.

And it will prove the empti­ness of the NRA’s con­stant claim that rea­son­able reg­u­la­tions some­how vi­o­late the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion. What the NRA con­ve­niently ig­nores is that “the right of the peo­ple to keep and bear arms” is en­shrined in the Sec­ond Amend­ment for the ex­press pur­pose of sup­port­ing “a well-reg­u­lated mili­tia.” We have come a long way since the 1700s, when ser­vice in a state mili­tia was uni­ver­sal (for white males), but it’s clear that the Founders saw the reg­u­la­tion of firearms as not merely per­mis­si­ble but nec­es­sary.

Florida al­ready re­stricts the pur­chase of hand­guns to peo­ple 21 and over; the new law ex­tends that limit to ri­fles. Sup­port has risen for this mod­est tight­en­ing of gun laws in the ex­tra­or­di­nary four weeks since the hor­rific shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land. A new Ras­mussen Reports sur­vey found that 67 per­cent of re­spon­dents fa­vor rais­ing the le­gal age to buy guns to 21.

The NRA has been down this road be­fore. It filed a sim­i­lar law­suit when Congress raised the fed­eral min­i­mum age on hand­gun pur­chases from 18 to 21. That suit went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which de­clined to hear the case and let stand a lower court rul­ing on the side of public safety. We an­tic­i­pate a sim­i­lar out­come to this lat­est NRA law­suit.

The na­tion’s age re­stric­tions on guns need clar­ity, and change. Cur­rently, fed­eral law pro­hibits li­censed firearm deal­ers from sell­ing a hand­gun to any­one un­der 21. Yet, those same deal­ers can legally sell ri­fles, shot­guns and the military-styled “long guns” to 18-year-olds. The fed­eral law is even more le­nient for per­sons who on oc­ca­sion may sell a weapon from his or her per­sonal col­lec­tion. It’s 18 for hand­gun trans­ac­tions and there is no min­i­mum age limit for “long gun” sales.

It is re­mark­able that Scott and a host of Florida law­mak­ers who share “A” or “A+” rat­ings from the NRA have an­gered the or­ga­ni­za­tion whose sway has in­stalled pro-gun poli­cies in this state for at least two decades.

By ban­ning all firearm sales to those un­der 21, im­pos­ing a three-day wait­ing pe­riod on all hand­gun pur­chases and ban­ning bump stocks, they have the NRA and its po­lit­i­cal acolytes see­ing red.

Florida’s new gun law is a big deal, even if the “re­form” un­wisely pro­vides money to school districts that choose to arm school per­son­nel and ut­terly ig­nores the grow­ing cry to ban as­sault-style weapons. Our state has a knack for shap­ing Amer­ica’s gun pol­icy: Think “stand your ground,” a wrong-headed law that started here and quickly spread to other pro-gun states.

But this time, the NRA may have in­deed over­played its hand. The gun lobby’s strict — and se­lec­tive — in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Sec­ond Amend­ment will be put to the test in a court of law, af­ter los­ing in the court of public opinion for years. The U.S. Bill of Rights is sa­cred but not ab­so­lute. Habeas cor­pus in times of war. Free­dom of speech in a crowded the­ater. And now, AR-15s in our schools.

In the af­ter­math of the Park­land shoot­ing mas­sacre — the sec­ond-worst school shoot­ing in the na­tion’s his­tory — Florida is tak­ing the gun de­bate in an un­ex­pect­edly pro­duc­tive di­rec­tion. We look for­ward to watch­ing the NRA’s du­bi­ous law­suit boomerang — and strengthen the cause of com­mon-sense gun safety.

Bring it on.

Florida’s new gun law is a big deal, even if the ‘re­form’ falls short.


Gov. Rick Scott, joined by fam­ily members of stu­dents slain in the Park­land mas­sacre, signs new gun re­stric­tions into law Fri­day.

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