Florida Bills Take the Right Approach to Fighting Crime and Protecting Rights

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Two bills filed for Florida’s 2024 session offer a complementary approach to combatting crime without infringing on the right of the people to keep and bear arms, though it remains to be seen whether the pro-2A measure can gain traction in the state Senate.


HB 1223, authored by Rep. Bobby Payne, would undo one of the gun control measures lawmakers approved after the Parkland shootings: a ban on gun purchases by adults younger than 21. Payne introduced similar legislation last year, and while it was approved by the House it was virtually ignored by the Senate thanks in part to opposition by Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, who also scuttled an attempt to include open carry in the permitless carry bill that was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Before the House voted 69-36 to pass the bill in April, Payne said it “corrects the wrong we did in 2018.” He argued that the measure would leave intact other parts of the 2018 law that addressed mental health and school safety.

“You see the gun as the problem,” Payne said during a debate. “I see the interventions and the policies as the answer.”

But Democrats, such as Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, who was Parkland mayor at the time of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, opposed lowering the minimum wage. During a debate, Hunschofsky called the 2018 law a national “gold standard” for school safety.

“This law has stood the test of time because we have not had another school shooting in the state of Florida, and I hope to God we never do so that children will no longer hide, hit the ground, when a balloon pops. … We are going down the wrong path here,” she said.

Florida may very well have the gold standard for school safety, but it’s not because it bars young adults from legally purchasing a firearm. Instead, I’d credit efforts like the state’s Guardian program, which places armed first responders on school campuses, along with things like the statewide standardized behavioral threat assessments in schools that were also a part of the response to Parkland on the part of lawmakers.


The state’s ban on gun sales to under-21s is already being challenged in court, with litigation pending in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, but an en banc hearing is on hold until the Supreme Court issues its decision in the Rahimi case, which isn’t likely to come down until late spring or early summer. A three-judge panel on the Eleventh Circuit previously concluded that the law didn’t violate the Second Amendment, though as attorney and scholar Steve Halbrook noted, they did so by ignoring the absence of any such restriction at the time the Second Amendment was ratified, choosing instead to rely on a “handful of late 19th-century laws as analogues”.

Other courts around the country have concluded that bans on gun sales or concealed carry for adults under the age of 21 do violate their Second Amendment rights, so this is very much a live issue in the legal arena. That alone may convince some skittish state senators to let the matter play out in court, even if it means many young adults are left in the bizarre situation of being allowed to possess a gun, but not purchase one.

While Payne’s bill would enable young adults to access their Second Amendment rights, legislation authored by his House colleague Berny Jacques would increase the penalties for juveniles who use a gun in the commission of a crime. HB 1181 and its Senate companion SB 1274 would, among other changes, make it a third-degree felony for a juvenile to illegally possess a gun, and subject juveniles who are arrested for violating probationary terms while under electronic monitoring to confinement in juvenile detention until their first court hearing instead of releasing them to the custody of their parents or guardians.


Crime in Florida is already at a 50-year low, but juvenile crime is a growing concern around the country and it’s good to see that Florida lawmakers are being proactive in addressing some flaws in the juvenile justice system while seeking to restore the Second Amendment rights of young adults. Both of these bills deserve support, but with Passidomo’s previous objections to gun sales for under-21s their passage is far from guaranteed.

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