The Phoenix Flyer

FL House votes to allow 18 year olds and above to buy long guns; Current law is 21

By: - April 28, 2023 7:01 pm

A man shoots AR-15 rifles and other weapons at a shooting range during the “Rod of Iron Freedom Festival” on October 12, 2019 in Greeley, Pennsylvania. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The GOP-controlled state House passed a measure Friday night that would reduce the age — 21 down to 18 — for someone to legally purchase rifles, shotguns and other long guns. The measure would repeal what’s on the books related to the shooting massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County five years ago.

The vote was 69-36.

However, the likelihood of the bill becoming law is dubious, because there’s no Senate version.

The measure, HB 1543, was strongly opposed by Democrats, who said that there was no need to change the law, which came with a series of gun safety provisions in 2018 under then-Gov. Rick Scott’s tenure.

At the time, the NRA sued to challenge the 2018 law, saying that it violated the right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment. A federal judge upheld that law in 2021, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld the law in a ruling issued last month.

North Central Republican Bobby Payne, the bill sponsor in the House on Friday, mentioned many of the provisions that were in the 2018 law, such as millions of dollars for mental health assistance in schools and the so-called Guardian program that allows for the arming of school personnel.

“So I feel like those interventions were enough that we can walk the age back to a respectable age to the majority, which is 18,” Payne said, adding that the majority of the states in the U.S. currently allow 18-year-olds can purchase long guns.

One Year Anniversary Parkland tragedy
Memorial at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, after the Feb. 14, 2018 mass shooting. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Democrat Robin Bartleman served on the Broward County School Board when the Parkland shooting occurred. She told House Republicans who were in the Legislature in 2018 that they were breaking a promise to the families of the victims by reversing the law on the minimum age to buy a long gun.

“You can’t just take one piece of it out,” she said. “It was a package signed into law signed by the governor. You made a promise to the parents and the citizens of Florida that you were going to keep us safe. And now, today, you’re taking all of that back. I don’t know how you can do that.”

The proposal does not affect the sale of handguns, as federal law bans the sale of handguns to individuals under the age of 21.

A Fox News poll released Thursday night of 1,000 Americans showed that 81% of Americans support raising the legal age to buy a gun to 21.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.