Federal appeals court upholds Florida’s post-Parkland ban on under-21 gun buys

Gun Rights

Florida’s law passed in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in 2018 that prohibits the sale of rifles and long guns to people under the age of 21 remains in effect after a federal appeals court upheld the law.

A unanimous three-judge panel on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found the law didn’t violate the Second Amendment, as the National Rifle Association and Radford Fant, the son of former Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jay Fant, contended when they brought the suit shortly after the bill took effect in 2018.

In the ruling, the judges stated they were following the precepts in an opinion issued last year by the U.S. Supreme Court that governments seeking to regulate firearms must show the law “is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

The Thursday decision pointed to a slew of bans on small arms and weapons for those under 21 by states in the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era. Those bans were unchallenged for decades, the ruling noted.

“The fact that there was apparently only a single challenge to these twenty statutes’ constitutionality until well into the twentieth century suggests that the public understanding at the time of the ratification considered the statutory prohibitions constitutionally permissible,” the ruling states.

Moreover, Florida’s 2018 law only bans the sale of long guns to those between 18 and 21 (a previous law banned the sale of handguns to those under 21), and doesn’t prevent young adults from acquiring a weapon as a gift or a loan, the judges found. That means the law isn’t as restrictive as the Reconstruction Era laws.

“Unlike those laws, the Act leaves 18-to-20-year-olds free to acquire firearms of any legal type — so long as they don’t buy them,” the ruling states.

The judges on the case were Robin Rosenbaum, Charles Wilson and Anne Conway. Wilson was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, and Rosenbaum was appointed by former President Barack Obama. Conway is a U.S. District Court judge of the Middle District of Florida, sitting on the case “by designation,” the ruling states. Conway was appointed by former President George H.W. Bush.

Wilson agreed with the opinion but wrote a concurrence noting he preferred to delay the ruling to see if the Legislature would pass HB 1543, which would repeal the ban on 18-21 gun purchases during its 60-day Regular Session, slated to end May 5.

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