The Second Amendment and the Parkland Shooting
I gave my Constitutional Law Exam yesterday. Here was one of the questions:
In March 2018, Florida enacted a law that (among other things) raised the minimum age for purchasing a firearm from 18 to 21. The National Rifle Association (NRA) filed a federal lawsuit in response alleging that prohibiting people between 18 and 21 from buying any gun violates the Second Amendment right recognized in Hellerand extended to the states by McDonald. The complaint also alleges that the age restriction as applied to women violates the Equal Protection Clause “[b]ecause females between the ages of 18 and 21 pose a relatively slight risk of perpetrating a school shooting such as the one that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, or, for that matter, a violent crime of any kind.” Please assess the likelihood of success of these claims.
The equal protection claim is rather weak. Not long after the NRA filed this suit, a woman did perpetrate a mass shooting at You Tube headquarters. The fact that men are far more likely to engage in gun violence does not, to my mind, mean that the state lacks the power to restrict firearms for similarly situated women.
The Heller claim, though, strikes me as strong. A law barring everyone under 21 from owning any type of gun is hard to square with the Second Amendment right recognized by the Supreme Court. With the exception of alcohol sales, the age of majority in the United States is 18. The Twenty-Sixth Amendment recognizes this as the relevant age for assessing the right to vote. In part, that is because the military draft applies at 18. And there are other cases, such as when capital punishment can be imposed, that recognize 18 as the baseline.
Perhaps there is some history or tradition of restricting gun sales to people under the age of 21. If so, then that could be used to uphold the Florida statute given that Heller emphasized that traditional restrictions on gun ownership were still valid. Of course, you might say that such a history just reflects the fact that the age of majority used to be 21 and thus is not terribly relevant to modern conditions.
Anyway, I’ll be curious to see what arguments Florida puts forward as the litigation moves forward.