Could a Texas Case Decide Florida’s Fate on Gun Laws?

August 28, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Violent Crimes

Following the 2018 massacre that took place in Parkland, Florida, state legislators passed a law to prevent anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing a rifle or long gun.  

Shortly after the law was passed in 2018, the National Rifle Association (NRA) challenged it, claiming it was unconstitutional by violating both the Second and Fourteenth Amendment. The Florida law was upheld by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in March 2023, with the Opinion of the Court stating:

“Because Florida’s law is consistent with our Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation, we affirm the district court’s judgement.”

This resulted with the NRA’s response that they were “currently assessing our appeal options.” However, an upcoming Texas case that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court could decide the looming fate of Florida’s law on preventing the sale of rifles and long guns to those under 21. The NRA’s attorneys were told by the Eleventh Circuit of Appeals to hold off on filing any briefs until after the Supreme Court issues a verdict in the Texas case.

This blog post will provide information on the Texas case and the ongoing challenges, along with Florida’s current gun restrictions.

What is the Texas Case?

The 1994 federal law that prevented gun possession by individuals who were on a domestic violence restraining order has been challenged by Zackey Rahimi. Rahimi was convicted of possessing a firearm after he received a domestic violence restraining order for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend. Rahimi was sentenced to six years in prison, but challenged the ruling on the basis that it went against his Second Amendment rights. 

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals used the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen to claim that the law was unconstitutional. The 2022 ruling invalidated the limits New York had placed on carrying a concealed weapon in public. The decision posed a new challenge for reviewing firearm laws and keeping restrictions within the tradition of gun regulation, and not just for government interest. Specifically, the ruling stated:

“The government fails to demonstrate that [the law’s] restriction of the Second Amendment right fits within our nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

The Justice Department attorneys wrote a brief to the Supreme Court so they would agree to take up the case, stating the following to point out what they believe is the Fifth Court’s misinterpretation of Bruen:

“The Fifth Court treated even minor and immaterial distinctions between historical laws and their modern counterparts as a sufficient reason to find the modern laws unconstitutional. If that approach were applied across the board, few modern statutes would survive judicial review; most modern gun regulations, after all, differ from their historical forbears in at least some ways.”

Different Cases, Same Results?

While the underlying legal issues differ in the Texas and Florida case, they do share important questions regarding how to proceed following the Bruen case. The main issue is whether courts should look to the record surrounding the Second Amendment’s ratification in 1791 or the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification in 1868.

Legal experts have claimed it would only be a matter of time before the U.S. Supreme Court would have to weigh in on the nation’s gun right protections under the U.S. Constitution and answer the many questions that have arisen since Bruen.

In a file to the Supreme Court by Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, she explained that the Second Amendment is in place to “disarm dangerous individuals—that is, those who would pose a serious risk of harm to themselves or to others if allowed to possess a firearm.”

Additionally, the University of Texas’ School of Law Domestic Violence Clinic director, Jeana Lungwitz, pointed out statistics that indicate over one third of American women who are killed by men are from intimate partners with guns. She also cited that a domestic violence incident where there is a gun involved is 12 times more likely to result in death than with those without a gun.

“The stakes are high for those experiencing domestic violence if violent partners can legally possess firearms,” Lungwitz said. “Not just high but deadly.”

Current Florida Law on Gun Age Restrictions

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act prohibits the sale and delivery of firearms to certain individuals.

Codified under Florida Statute Section 790.065(13), the bill states that a person younger than 21 years of age may not purchase a firearm. Further, the sale or transfer of a firearm to a person younger than 21 years of age may not be made or facilitated by a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer. An individual who violates this law can be charged with a third-degree felony. In Florida, a third-degree felony can result in the following penalties:

  • Up to $5,000 in fines
  • Up to five years of imprisonment

What Does this Mean for Florida?

The U.S. Court of Appeals informed the State and NRA attorneys to wait on filing briefs regarding the law’s constitutionality until after the U.S. Supreme Court has finished ruling in the Texas gun case.

In the March 2023 upholding of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, the Eleventh Circuit Court found that it remained consistent with the historical tradition of firearm regulation.

Their reasoning is stated as the following from their March 2023 opinion:

“To begin with, the Act is no more restrictive than its forebearers: while the Act burdens 18-to-20-year-old’s rights to buy firearms, unlike its Reconstruction Era analogues, it still leaves 18-to-20-year-olds free to acquire any type of firearm—including ‘the quintessential self-defense weapon,’ the handgun…in legal way, as long as they don’t buy the weapons.”

For now, we will have to wait and see how the Texas case will proceed once it begins in October. It is likely that the Florida law will not be ruled on until sometime next year in 2024. That will mark over six years since the Parkland Massacre that took place in 2018. 

Contact Pumphrey Law Firm

While different states continue to challenge current gun laws, it may seem confusing for the average person to determine what is still within the grounds of the law for gun possession. If you or someone you love was arrested for unlawful gun possession, it is imperative that you consult with an Florida criminal defense attorney. The defense attorneys at Pumphrey Law Firm have a broad understanding of the laws and penalties surrounding gun possession. Contact us today at (850) 681-7777 or leave a message online to receive a free consultation.

Written by Karissa Key

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