The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would lower the minimum age from 21 to 18 to buy rifles and other long guns, readying the proposal to go to the full House.
The committee voted 16-6 to support the measure (HB 1543), sponsored by Rep. Bobby Payne, R-Palatka, and Rep. Tyler Sirois, R-Merritt Island.
The bill would reverse part of a 2018 law that set the minimum age at 21 after a gunman killed 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Nikolas Cruz, then 19, used a semi-automatic rifle to carry out the attack. Federal law has long prevented people under 21 from buying handguns.
Supporters of the bill have argued, in part, that the prohibition on people under 21 buying long guns violates the constitutional rights of young adults. “It’s always the wrong answer to punish the innocent,” Judiciary Chairman Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch, said. “Raising the age from 18 to 21, I think in retrospect, was the wrong answer, because we are catching innocent Americans whose rights should be protected.”
But Rep. Dan Daley, D-Coral Springs, said he is concerned that passing the bill could lead to “more Parklands” and school shootings. “We talk a heck of a lot in this building, and in this state, about freedom,” Daley said. “What about the freedom to not be shot? What about the freedom to go to school without the fear of being shot? What about the freedom to come home to your parents at the end of the day?”
House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, has supported the bill, but Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, has said she opposes lowering the minimum age to 18. A Senate bill on the issue has not been filed.