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A bill to lower the age to buy a rifle in Florida is unlikely to pass

People examine rifles on display at the annual National Rifle Association convention in Nashville, Tenn., in April.
Mark Humphrey
/
AP
People examine rifles on display at the annual National Rifle Association convention in Nashville, Tenn., in April.

Florida House Republicans are backing legislation to lower the minimum age to buy a long gun from 21 to 18, but the proposal is unlikely to get taken up in the Senate.

“We don’t have it in the Senate,” Republican Senate President Kathleen Passidomo told reporters this week. “Nobody filed it.”

On Monday, the bill — HB 1543 — passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee along party lines. There’s no similar measure in the Senate, and Passidomo says it’s unlikely to get added to a permitless carry bill that has support from legislative leaders.

HB 1543 would lower the age to buy rifles, shot guns and other long guns from licensed dealers. It comes about five years after lawmakers set the minimum age at 21, as part of broader school safety legislation following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland.

When asked whether she supports the bill, Passidomo said “no.” “I listen to my members, nobody has brought it up to me. Nobody has mentioned it in the Senate.”

In her view, the focus should be on mental health, Passidomo explained. “That’s my thrust,” she said. “That’s what I care very deeply about in this whole issue.”

State Rep. Bobby Payne (R-Palatka) is sponsoring the bill. In 2018, he voted for the school safety legislation that set the minimum age at 21. “There were provisions in that bill that I really liked.”

Payne says he believes it’s an “infringement” upon the constitutional rights of 18-20 year olds to bar them from purchasing long guns. However, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that Florida’s law setting the age at 21 to purchase long guns is constitutional.

The federal government already doesn’t allow anyone under the age of 21 to purchase a handgun. In seven states, including Florida, the minimum age to purchase all firearms is 21.

The Parkland shooter was 19 years old when he used an AR-15 style rifle that he legally purchased to murder 17 people at MSD High School.

“Of course, we had the situation with Nikolas Cruz, where he was young, and he went down and lawfully purchased the guns,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri during a recent Senate committee meeting. “I support it at twenty-one.”

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.
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