Florida – Florida is once again at the forefront of a heated debate on gun legislation. A new bill, aimed at lowering the minimum age to purchase rifles and other long guns from 21 to 18, has been filed at the state capitol. This legislation, if passed, would mark a significant reversal of a part of the law enacted after the tragic Parkland shooting.
In February 2018, a devastating incident shook the community when Nikolas Cruz, then 19, carried out a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, resulting in the deaths of 17 students and faculty members. In response, the Legislature, along with then-Governor Rick Scott, passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act the following month. This law raised the minimum age to buy a gun to 21 years old, representing a direct response to the tragedy and an effort to prevent future incidents.
However, the current proposal, known as HB 1223, spearheaded by Representative Bobby Payne, seeks to challenge this regulation. Payne, who also sponsored a similar bill last year that failed, expressed his perspective on the issue, stating, “It corrects the wrong we did in 2018.” He believes that HB 1223 will restore rights to law-abiding citizens, emphasizing the significance of constitutional rights in his argument. Payne argues, “If you can vote, you can serve in the military, and you can do other things with regard to constitutional rights. This is an inalienable right that people should be able to protect themselves and have a gun.”
However, this bill faces staunch opposition. Representative Christine Hunschofsky, the former mayor of Parkland during the shooting, has been an outspoken critic of this year’s version of the bill, just as she opposed the bill in 2023. Hunschofsky reflects on the original legislation as an act of political courage, noting the difficult decisions made in the wake of the Parkland tragedy. She views any rollback of these provisions as incredibly concerning.
The details of HB1223 are clear in their intent. The bill stipulates, “A person younger than 18 years of age may not purchase a firearm. The sale or transfer of a firearm to a person younger than 18 years of age may not be made or facilitated by a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer.” It also outlines strict penalties for violations, with offenses potentially resulting in charges of a third-degree felony.