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National Rifle Association v. Rick Swearingen: Defending common-sense age restrictions for firearm purchases in Florida

Case Information: National Rifle Association v. Rick Swearingen, No. 21-12314 (11th Cir. brief filed October 25, 2021)

At Issue: In 2018 a mass shooter took the lives of 17 people and injured 17 more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In the aftermath of the shooting, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. Among several public-safety provisions, the Act generally prohibits those under the age of 21 from purchasing a firearm. Just a few hours after Governor Scott signed the Act into law, the NRA, joined by individuals under the age of 21, filed this lawsuit, contending that Florida’s new minimum-age law prevented them from exercising their Second Amendment rights. We also filed a brief before the lower court, which upheld the law.

Our Brief: In a joint brief with Brady, Team ENOUGH, Orange Ribbons for Gun Safety, and March For Our Lives Action Fund, we argue that the Court should uphold Florida’s law as consistent with  the Second Amendment.

State and federal governments have long regulated 18-to-20-year-olds’ access to firearms. We argue that the minimum age law is therefore presumptively constitutional as the sort of “longstanding” regulation that the Heller court declared outside the scope of the Second Amendment. . However, even if it is not found to be presumptively lawful, it is still consistent with the Second Amendment and should be upheld under the legal framework used in Second Amendment cases.  The law applies for a limited duration to a limited group of people—18-to-20-year-olds—who historically have not fallen within the Second Amendment’s core protections. It is also a commercial regulation on firearm sales—a type of restriction that Heller expressly recognized as presumptively valid. Thus, the conduct regulated by Section 13 is—at most—at the periphery of the Second Amendment, rather than its core.

Furthermore, neuroscience and social science show that 18-to-20- year-olds are at higher risk of violence due to their developing adolescent brains. Age restrictions such as this minimum age law are associated with a decline in firearm-related adolescent deaths. Because it reflects the Florida Legislature’s well-founded, data-driven, and effective solution to the grave problem of gun violence, this law substantially relates to an important state objective and does not violate the Second Amendment.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.