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NRA defends challenge to new gun ownership age law

Gun rights group sued, lost similar federal suit

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Since the first of March, gun sales in Florida are up almost  20 percent over last year, according to officials with the Department of Law Enforcement. The jump occurred as state lawmakers voted to raise the age of buying any gun to 21. The NRA has filed suit, arguing the higher age violates young adults' constitutional rights. 

The law took effect with Gov. Rick Scott's signature. The NRA filed a similar suit when the federal government raised the age to purchase handguns to 21. In that case, a federal court determined it was okay to restrict access to a targeted group for the sake of public safety.

Just a little more than an hour after Scott signed the bill into law, raising the age to purchase a gun in the state to 21, the NRA filed suit, arguing the bill violates the Second and 14th Amendment rights of 18 - to 20-year-olds.

“You can't use age discrimination to violate First Amendment rights, Second Amendment rights, any right," said Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.

The law allows for some exceptions, including military members, law enforcement officers and correctional officers. It also doesn’t ban possession of a firearm, only the purchase.

Scott said he plans to defend the law.

“I believe we have to recognize that we want to protect everybody's rights, but we also want to protect our kids and our grandkids at school,” Scott said.

But Hammer said Scott’s standing with the NRA and gun owners has dropped dramatically.

“He put his hand on a bible and swore to support, protect and defend the Constitution and then he signed legislation that violates constitutional rights," Hammer said. "He obviously has a hard time keeping his word.”

Scott, a member of the NRA himself, has previously held an A+ rating from the organization.

“I'm going to remain an NRA member. I'm going to fight for the Second Amendment, but I'm going to fight to make sure that our kids are safe in this state,” Scott said.

Florida is now among just three states to ban the sale of all firearms to those under 21 years old.