Earlier today Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law gun control measures meant to address concerns after the Parkland school shooting.
One provision provides that all firearm sales are limited to persons at least 21 years old. Previously that age minimum only applied to handguns.
That provision, the NRA contends, is a wholesale deprivation of a constitutional right to adults aged 18-20.
The NRA issued this statement:
The National Rifle Association today announced that it has filed a lawsuit challenging the State of Florida’s newly-enacted ban on the purchase of firearms by young adults between the ages of 18-21.
Florida’s ban is an affront to the Second Amendment, as it totally eviscerates the right of law-abiding adults between the ages of 18 and 21 to keep and bear arms. The ban is particularly offensive with respect to young women, as women between the ages of 18 and 21 are much less likely to engage in violent crime than older members of the general population who are unaffected by the ban. Despite this fact, the State of Florida has enacted a sweeping law banning all young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 from purchasing any firearm from any source. Chris Cox, the Executive Director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, stated, “Swift action is needed to prevent young adults in Florida from being treated as second-class citizens when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms.
We are confident that the courts will vindicate our view that Florida’s ban is a blatant violation of the Second Amendment.” The case is National Rifle Association of America, Inc. v. Bondi, and it has been filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
Not surprisingly, thought it wasn’t required to cite law in a Complaint, the NRA made sure to cite to the Heller case right near the top:
1. The Second Amendment “guarantee[s] the individual right to possess
and carry” firearms, and “elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding,
responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.” District of
Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 635 (2008).
2. The State of Florida, however, has recently prohibited an entire class
of law-abiding, responsible citizens from fully exercising the right to keep and bear
arms—namely, adults who have reached the age of 18 but are not yet 21. Florida
flatly bans such persons from purchasing firearms, whether from federally licensed
firearms dealers or from any other source.
3. At 18 years of age, law-abiding citizens in this country are considered
adults for almost all purposes and certainly for the purposes of the exercise of
fundamental constitutional rights. At 18, citizens are eligible to serve in the
military—to fight and die by arms for the country. Indeed, male citizens in this
age-group are designated members of the militia by federal statute, 10 U.S.C. §
246(a), and may be conscripted to bear arms on behalf of their country, 50 U.S.C.
§ 3803(a). Yet, newly-enacted Section 790.065(13) of Florida’s criminal code
prohibits law-abiding adults in this age group from lawfully purchasing a firearm
of any kind.
4. This blanket ban violates the fundamental rights of thousands of
responsible, law-abiding Florida citizens and is thus invalid under the Second and
I don’t claim to be a 2nd Amendment legal expert, so I won’t express a view on whether the NRA is on solid legal ground.
I will say that when I heard of the complete ban for ages 18-20 the first thing I thought of was Heller. That involved the nearly complete ban on firearms in readily operable condition in D.C. Such a ban was held to be unconstitutional.
The District of Columbia generally prohibits the possession of handguns. It is a crime to carry an unregistered firearm, and the registration of handguns is prohibited. See D. C. Code §§7–2501.01(12), 7–2502.01(a), 7–2502.02(a)(4) (2001). Wholly apart from that prohibition, no person may carry a handgun without a license, but the chief of police may issue licenses for 1-year periods. See §§22–4504(a), 22–4506. District of Columbia law also requires residents to keep their lawfully owned firearms, such as registered long guns, “unloaded and dissembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar device” unless they are located in a place of business or are being used for lawful recreational activities. See §7–2507.02.1
* * *
Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. See, e.g., Sheldon, in 5 Blume 346; Rawle 123; Pomeroy 152–153; Abbott333. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. See, e.g., State v. Chandler, 5 La. Ann., at 489–490; Nunn v. State, 1 Ga., at 251; see generally 2 Kent *340, n. 2; The American Students’ Blackstone 84, n. 11 (G. Chase ed. 1884). Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment , nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
* * *
We turn finally to the law at issue here. As we have said, the law totally bans handgun possession in the home. It also requires that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock at all times, rendering it inoperable.
* * *
It is no answer to say, as petitioners do, that it is permissible to ban the possession of handguns so long as the possession of other firearms (i.e., long guns) is allowed. It is enough to note, as we have observed, that the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon. There are many reasons that a citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense: It is easier to store in a location that is readily accessible in an emergency; it cannot easily be redirected or wrestled away by an attacker; it is easier to use for those without the upper-body strength to lift and aim a long gun; it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police. Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.
* * *
Justice Breyer moves on to make a broad jurisprudential point: He criticizes us for declining to establish a level of scrutiny for evaluating Second Amendment restrictions. He proposes, explicitly at least, none of the traditionally expressed levels (strict scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, rational basis), but rather a judge-empowering “interest-balancing inquiry” that “asks whether the statute burdens a protected interest in a way or to an extent that is out of proportion to the statute’s salutary effects upon other important governmental interests.” Post, at 10. After an exhaustive discussion of the arguments for and against gun control, Justice Breyer arrives at his interest-balanced answer: because handgun violence is a problem, because the law is limited to an urban area, and because there were somewhat similar restrictions in the founding period (a false proposition that we have already discussed), the interest-balancing inquiry results in the constitutionality of the handgun ban. QED.
We know of no other enumerated constitutional right whose core protection has been subjected to a freestanding “interest-balancing” approach. The very enumeration of the right takes out of the hands of government—even the Third Branch of Government—the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon. A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges’ assessments of its usefulness is no constitutional guarantee at all. Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them, whether or not future legislatures or (yes) even future judges think that scope too broad. We would notapply an “interest-balancing” approach to the prohibition of a peaceful neo-Nazi march through Skokie. See National Socialist Party of America v. Skokie, 432 U. S. 43 (1977) (per curiam). The First Amendment contains the freedom-of-speech guarantee that the people ratified, which included exceptions for obscenity, libel, and disclosure of state secrets, but not for the expression of extremely unpopular and wrong-headed views. The Second Amendment is no different. Like the First, it is the very product of an interest-balancing by the people—which Justice Breyer would now conduct for them anew. And whatever else it leaves to future evaluation, it surely elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.
* * *
In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment , as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense. Assuming that Heller is not disqualified from the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the District must permit him to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.
The new Florida law doesn’t ban all firearms by and stretch. But it does ban sale of firearms to adults in the 18-20 age group. That age limitation makes the law not as broad as in Heller.
But if there is a 2nd Amendment right, why would that right be unlike all other rights, which apply to all adults without age limitation (and indeed, many times to non-adults)?
I suspect we will be back to the fact that 2nd Amendment rights are not treated as deferentially as other rights, something Justice Thomas recently lamented:
Our continued refusal to hear Second Amendment cases only enables this kind of defiance. We have not heard argument in a Second Amendment case for nearly eight years. Peruta v. California, 582 U. S. ___, ___ (2017) (THOMAS, J., dissenting from denial of certiorari) (slip op., at 7). And we have not clarified the standard for assessing Second Amendment claims for almost 10. Meanwhile, in this Term alone, we have granted review in at least five cases involving the First Amendment and four cases involving the Fourth Amendment—even though our jurisprudence is much more developed for those rights.
If this case involved one of the Court’s more favored rights, I sincerely doubt we would have denied certiorari….
The Court would take these cases because abortion, speech, and the Fourth Amendment are three of its favored rights. The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this Court’s constitutional orphan. And the lower courts seem to have gotten the message.
* * *
Nearly eight years ago, this Court declared that the Second Amendment is not a “second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.” McDonald, 561 U. S., at 780 (plurality opinion). By refusing to review decisions like the one below, we undermine that declaration. Because I still believe that the Second Amendment cannot be “singled out for special—and specially unfavorable—treatment,” id., at 778–779 (majority opinion), I respectfully dissent from the denial of certiorari.
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