A bill has been introduced at the state capitol in Tallahassee, Florida, with the aim of reducing the minimum age for purchasing rifles and other long guns from 21 to 18. If this legislation is passed, it would mark a reversal of part of the law that was enacted in response to the tragic Parkland Shooting.
In February 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas was devastated when Nikolas Cruz, who was then 19 years old, took the lives of 17 students and faculty members. In response to this horrific event, the Legislature and then-Governor Rick Scott passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act, which raised the minimum age for purchasing firearms to 21 years old.
A similar bill was filed last year but failed to pass. At that time, Representative Bobby Payne, the sponsor of the new version, stated that it “corrects the wrong we did in 2018.” Payne argues that House Bill 1223 would restore the rights of law-abiding citizens.
“If you can vote, you can serve in the military, and you can exercise other Constitutional rights, then owning a gun should be considered an inalienable right as well,” Payne said.
In opposition to the bill, Representative Christine Hunschofsky, who served as the mayor of Parkland during the shooting, has vowed to continue speaking out against this year’s version. She believes that the actions taken by the Legislature in 2018 were courageous, as they defied popular opinion to do what they believed was right. Hunschofsky finds it deeply concerning that some of those provisions may now be rolled back.
Hunschofsky refers to the legislation passed in 2018 as the “gold standard,” highlighting the implementation of risk protection orders. Florida was one of the first states to introduce such orders, which have been utilized over 9,000 times in the state. Importantly, since their implementation, Florida has not experienced another school shooting.
To gain further insight into the chances of the bill passing, News 6 reached out to political expert and professor Jim Clark. Clark believes it is unlikely that a bill lowering the age to purchase rifles or long guns will be approved. He suggests that legislators prefer to avoid such a contentious issue, especially during an election year, as it could reignite the Parkland controversy.
The proposed House Bill 1223 explicitly states that individuals under the age of 18 may not purchase firearms, and licensed importers, manufacturers, or dealers may not sell or facilitate the transfer of firearms to those under 18. Violation of this act would result in a third-degree felony charge.
It remains to be seen whether this bill will gain sufficient support to become law, but the debate surrounding it underscores the ongoing dialogue surrounding gun control in the United States.