Citing evidence that the “overwhelming majority” of gun violence and mass shootings are committed by shooters under age 25, U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz has introduced federal legislation raising the minimum age to buy semiautomatic firearms.
Under the legislation, someone under age 25 couldn’t buy a range of weapons.
The prohibition would encompass semiautomatic rifles — including “all AK types,” such as the AK47, and “all AR types,” such as the AR-15 — and semiautomatic pistols and shotguns.
AR-15-style rifles have been used in many mass shootings, including by the 19-year-old who committed the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The prohibition wouldn’t have applied to the shooter who used an AR-15-style rifle to kill eight people at a mall in Allen, Texas, on Saturday afternoon. Police said the killer was 33.
“Our communities are plagued by gun violence. What will it take to protect our children? We can’t continue to needlessly endure heartbreak after heartbreak as our public places become targets of violence,” Moskowitz said in a written statement.
“We no longer need moments of silence; we need moments of action. I refuse to think that nothing can get done,” he added.
Moskowitz’s office cited law enforcement officials, researchers and policy experts who report that “individuals aged roughly 15-25 represent the age at the most risk of becoming a mass shooter because of the intense developmental changes and societal pressures that can turn them violent.”
And his office said in a statement on the legislation that, “Overall, boys and young men account for half of all homicides involving guns, or any other weapon, nationwide. Exactly 50% of all killings in 2020, the last year comprehensive data is available, were committed by assailants under 30.”
The Broward-Palm Beach County Democrat has seen the horror of mass violence — and has experience passing laws to combat it.
Moskowitz was representing northwest Broward in the state House of Representatives on Feb. 14, 2018, when a gunman massacred 17 people, and injured 17, at Stoneman Douglas High.
He rushed back home from Tallahassee and spent the night with family members as they learned what had happened to their loved ones at the school.
On the day of the massacre, one of Moskowitz’s young sons was at a nearby school and took refuge in a closet where he was comforted by a teacher. That teacher was Jennifer Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was an MSD student and one of those killed in the massacre.
Moskowitz was instrumental in passage of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which raised the age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21, created a statewide waiting period for long-gun sales and made it easier for law enforcement to seize weapons from people suspected of being dangerous.
Moskowitz, a Stoneman Douglas graduate, invited members of the Florida Legislature from elsewhere in the state to come to the school, to see the scene of the carnage in his community. And he delivered an emotional speech in the House. Ultimately, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed the law.
An attempt to reverse a key element of the law — Florida’s increase in the age to buy a long gun — failed in the state Legislature this year, something Moskowitz celebrated. “The FL bill to lower the age to 18 to buy a gun in Florida is dead!” Moskowitz wrote last week on Twitter.
The proposed federal legislation, which was introduced late Tuesday, does not yet have co-sponsors. It faces long odds of passage. Almost all proposed limits on guns fail in Congress; and the Republicans who took control of the House this year are particularly opposed to such restrictions.
Opponents of restrictions on guns often cite the Second Amendment to the Constitution as a prohibition on limitations. Moskowitz is calling his proposed law the “Protecting the Second Amendment through Responsible Gun Ownership Act.”
Representatives from Gun Owners of America said Moskowitz’s proposal is unconstitutional, would be overturned by the courts and there are effective ways to stop those who would harm others.
“Americans’ Second Amendment rights are not second-class rights subject to the whims of politicians, and this legislation would grossly infringe on the right to keep and bear arms. Imagine the outrage if this Congressman instead introduced a bill to raise the voting age to 25,” Aidan Johnston, the organization’s director of federal affairs, said via email. “Instead of flouting the Constitution and his oath of office, Mr. Moskowitz should work to harden soft targets and deter violent criminals by reducing barriers to carrying for self-defense.”
Luis Valdes, the Florida state director of Gun Owners of America, called it a “blatant assault on the Second Amendment” and “a slap in the face to the Congressman’s constituents, who simply want to exercise their right to self-defense how they see fit. But, under this dystopian bill, if someone hasn’t reached 25 yet, they simply would be out of luck.”
The NRA media relations office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment made midday Wednesday.
The bill, which hasn’t yet been assigned a number by the House, contains lengthy definitions of the kinds of weapons that couldn’t be bought by someone under age 25.
Moskowitz’s work in the Florida legislature earned him an F-minus rating from the National Rifle Association — a grade that Moskowitz has said meant he was doing the right thing. During his congressional campaign last year, he was endorsed by family members of several people killed in the Stoneman Douglas massacre.
He was elected to his first term in Congress in November, and since taking office has been outspoken on the issue of gun violence.
In April, he delivered a passionate critique of Republican policies on the issue, mocking them for trivial oversight and ignoring gun violence in schools. At a House committee hearing, he ended up in a fiery back and forth with U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, one of the most prominent Republicans in Congress.
That exchange came two days after a shooter killed three students and three adults in a school in Nashville, Tenn. Moskowitz minimized a line often used by gun rights advocates — including Greene — that it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun.
“Did the good guys with the gun stop six people from getting murdered? No, but you know what? AR-15s. You ever seen what those bullets do to children? You know why you don’t hunt with an AR-15 with a deer? Because there’s nothing left. And there’s nothing left of these kids when people go into school and murder them while they’re trying to read,” Moskowitz said, aiming his comments at Republicans. “You guys are worried about banning books. Dead kids can’t read.”
Greene suggested school violence could be curbed by arming more people in schools.
Moskowitz has also:
- Asked House Republican committee chairs to hold a field hearing in Parkland to learn what Florida did about gun violence after the Stoneman Douglas massacre. He made the request Monday, following the weekend mass shooting in Texas.
- Expressed concern that the number of mass shootings that had already taken place in the first weeks of the year risked desensitizing people to what’s happening.
- Joined the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and is one of the group’s vice chairs.
- Asked congressional leaders to arrange a closed-door briefing for members of Congress on mass shootings.
Anthony Man can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @browardpolitics and on Post.news/@browardpolitics.