Florida’s ban on gun sales to adults under the age of 21 is facing both a court challenge and possible repeal by the state legislature, but despite the large GOP majorities in the House and Senate the bill that would scrap the ban faces an uncertain future. The biggest hurdle is probably the Senate, where President Kathleen Passidomo refused to consider the issue last session. There’s been no sign that she’s changed her mind in the months since, but some fans of the current prohibition are still starting to speak out to apply pressure to House lawmakers as well.
Orange County Sheriff and former Orlando Police Chief John Mina, who’s also opposed to the state’s permitless carry law and attempts to end the ban on open carry in the state, says that young adults should still be barred from lawfully purchasing a firearm at retail, though the stated reasons for his objections don’t make much sense.
“That was passed in a Republican-controlled legislature and under a republican Governor,” Orange County Sheriff John Mina recalled. “I don’t see the reason behind it.”
Mina says decreasing the age back to 18 would be a huge mistake.
“I don’t want a young person who has been involved with criminal activity all their life to turn 18 and then go to a gun store and purchase a rifle,” Mina explained.
If a person with an extensive criminal history as a juvenile goes to a gun store at 18 and tries to purchase a rifle, that juvenile record will appear in a NICS check and disqualify them from completing their purchase. As sheriff, Mina should know that, so is he clueless about how the law currently works or does he just want Floridians to be ignorant in order to play on their fears?
Frankly, if an 18-year-old with an extensive criminal history wants to get a gun, they’re probably going to do it on the illicit market and not a federally licensed firearms retailer. It’s not like states that limit gun purchases to over-21s are free of juvenile crime. Maryland, for instance, has the same prohibition in place that Florida does, but juvenile crime is exploding in the state; so much so that Democrat Gov. Wes Moore is now talking semi-tough about cracking down on armed juvenile offenders.
While Mina is focused on young adults who can’t lawfully purchase or possess a gun because of their criminal record, he’s ignoring the impact that the law has on young adults who simply want to exercise their Second Amendment rights for lawful purposes like self-defense. A 20-year-old in Orange County can serve as a deputy and be entrusted with a firearm, but she’s not allowed to purchase a rifle or shotgun for home defense? That makes no sense at all.
Courts across the country, including in my home state of Virginia, have concluded that bans on gun sales to adults under the age of 21 violate their Constitutional rights, and for good reason. There is no longstanding national tradition of forbidding young adults from purchasing a firearm, and there’s certainly nothing in the text of the Second Amendment that would indicate the practice doesn’t infringe on our right to keep and bear arms.
Florida’s ban was a knee-jerk reaction on the part of lawmakers to the horrific murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, and no matter how well-intentioned it might have been the restrictions are still keeping young adults from accessing their rights. Yes, a 19-year-old could still have a firearm transferred to them by a family member, but not every young adult is in contact with their family or has relatives who support the Second Amendment. The law simply poses an untenable burden on the rights of law-abiding young adults and needs to go away. I firmly believe that if the legislature doesn’t take that step the courts will eventually do it for them, but lawmakers would be wise to revisit the issue, undo their mistake, and get ahead of the judiciary in restoring the Second Amendment rights of young adults in the Sunshine State.