As criminal defense lawyers, we have witnessed how the issue of gun control and weapons reform has remained a steadfast, bipartisan issue that has looked unlikely to form a viable solution or compromise. On one side, gun owners vigorously argued that their rights to own firearms were protected by the Second Amendment, a provision that often deterred lawmakers from making pushes to gun legislation changes.
However, on the other side, reformers were infuriated that hundreds of innocent people were being killed because of loose gun laws that seemingly allowed anyone to purchase and operate a firearm, even with blatant mental disorders. After the 2018 school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, Governor Rick Scott signed a new gun law that will become Florida’s most successful gun reform in nearly 20 years. Read on to learn more about this law and how it can affect you, as both a gun owner and a concerned citizen.
These New Laws Were Influenced By Overwhelming Activism
Unfortunately, school shootings have become commonplace in the United States of America. However, after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in the spring of 2018, lawmakers across party lines, gun owners, and citizens held a strong sense of concern towards the 17 victims killed by a 19-year mentally disturbed male who legally owned an AR-15 rifle. Through this concern, a nationwide gesture of activism was sparked by the victims of the school shooting.
These individuals targeted the Florida governor and other national legislators to enforce stricter gun laws that would keep firearms out of the hands of those deemed irresponsible. As such, Gov. Rick Scott’s signing of the new gun legislation was a victory for these activists and other individuals who championed for stricter gun measures over the years.
The Minimum Age Has Been Raised
According to the new mandate, gun owners in Florida will now have to be 21 years of age to legally purchase a handgun. This provision would have prevented the 19-year old Parkland gunman from legally purchasing a handgun. Interestingly, this new law is a divergence of the federal law that people can only buy handguns from licensed dealers if they are 21 years or older. Though, there is a glaring stipulation, in which 18-year olds can still purchase rifles and shotguns from unlicensed dealers (such as at gun shows).
Although this law increases the minimum age to purchase a firearm, it doesn’t necessarily serve as a safeguard to prevent a future mass shooting. This is mainly due to the fact that criminals can conveniently obtain firearms illegally and can still make these purchases if they are of age.
There Is An Enforced Waiting Period
Those wanting to purchase a firearm will have to wait three days, or the entire waiting period can be expedited after a background check. This provision, in effect, would likely deter individuals that have been documented as mentally insane, or criminals, from obtaining legally obtaining firearms in the state of Florida. Though, there are exceptions for police officers, licensed concealed carriers, and licensed hunters.
Bump Stocks Are Banned
In simple terms, bump stocks are small devices that can be attached to rifles, enabling them to fire magazines faster. According to the new gun law in the state of Florida, these devices will now be illegal. Shockingly, there has been a national disapproval of bump stocks across the United States. The NRA voiced its displeasure with these devices before the Florida bill was even passed.
Moreover, President Trump also encouraged Congress to issue regulations for bump stocks, but these demands were not readily put into action. As a result, this provision is likely to be supported by both political parties, the NRA, and gun owners alike.
School Employees Can Be Armed
One of the most controversial topics that sprouted during the gun reform debate was the idea that states should allow school personnel to be armed to combat against any potential mass shooter. Supported by President Trump, it seemed likely that this provision would at least be given the benefit of the doubt in Congress.
In a shocking development, the new Florida gun law allows school superintendents and sheriffs to arm school employees, except for full-time school teachers. This means that librarians, coaches, counselors, and more school staff can participate in a 67 million dollar Marshall Program to receive proper training of how to act during a school attack.
The State Of Florida Will Fund School Security
The new Florida gun law will send millions of dollars to fund school security. During the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, a security officer was present but did not enter the building. Now, schools will enlist special police officers and security guards to protect schools from invaders.
This Law Does Not Ban Assault Weapons
What can be seen as a failure for the gun reform activists is that this law doesn’t mention any ban towards assault weapons. Constantly, supporters of gun reform have argued that assault weapons are not necessary weapons for protection, and are rather instruments of war and aggression. According to this law, prospective gun owners can still carry assault rifles, specifically AR-15s.
Florida’s New Laws Does Not Strengthen Background Checks
While there is a feasible option to obtain a background check in lieu for the three-day waiting period, these background checks will not be extensive under the new Florida gun law. Changes to existing background checks have been supported by both political parties as a potential remedy to the growing number of mass shootings. Of course, there is a federal law requiring background checks from licensed dealers.
However, there are holes in the system. Private gun lenders are not required to give these background checks, and this exception makes it more likely for irresponsible gun owners to make legal purchases.
If You Have Been Charged With A Gun Charge, Can An Attorney Help?
With new laws, comes new opportunities to be charged with a weapons crime. If you have been arrested in West Palm Beach, contact one of our skilled criminal defense attorneys to learn how we can help with your legal case.