In the weeks after the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida’s GOP-dominated Legislature passed a broad gun safety bill that looks a lot like the reform agenda that many Democrats are pushing today: Among other provisions, the legislation created red flag protections, imposed a three-day waiting period for long gun purchases, and raised the minimum age to buy assault-style rifles from 18 to 21. Then-Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, praised the “common-sense solutions” after signing the bill into law.
It was one of the first measures in contemporary Florida history to restrict gun access, and a shocking move from a state often considered a laboratory for generous gun access laws — and it drew the immediate ire of the National Rifle Association. For decades, the gun rights group enjoyed a cozy relationship with the state Legislature by way of lobbyist Marion Hammer. As The Trace reported in 2018, Florida Republicans allowed her to become a de facto member of government, allowing her to create policy, see it through to passage, and use government resources to achieve her aims. Hammer characterized the 2018 law as a “betrayal” and a “display of bullying and coercion”; the NRA almost immediately filed suit in federal court to block the raise-the-age provision.
The raise-the-age provision has so far retained a stubborn staying power. A proposal by state House Republicans to lower the minimum age to 18 this year never made it to a Senate vote. A U.S. district judge rejected the NRA’s challenge in 2021; four months ago, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld that ruling, citing Reconstruction-era firearm restrictions as precedent.
The key phrase, though, is so far. The 11th Circuit recently announced that it will rehear the NRA’s challenge in the fall, this time before the full court. A majority of 11th Circuit judges were appointed by Republican presidents.
Still, Florida’s reputation as a test state for gun laws may find a new way to play out. Earlier this month, Manuel and Patricia Oliver — who lost their son Joaquin in the Parkland attack — joined a gun reform advocacy event at the Texas Capitol with family members of school shooting victims, including from Uvalde. For the past year, families of the victims killed in the massacre at Robb Elementary School have been leading an emotional pressure campaign urging Texas lawmakers to pass a raise-the-age law, as Florida did five years ago. The Legislature didn’t pass their bill this session, but the conversation created change, said Rhonda Hart, whose daughter was killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Santa Fe High School. “For the first time in five years,” Hart told the Austin American-Statesman, “lawmakers had to listen to survivors in Texas.”
From Our Team
Can You Sue a Gun Company?
Readers responded to our reporting on lawsuits against SIG Sauer with questions about when, exactly, the firearm industry’s legal immunity kicks in.
Are Handguns or Rifles Used More Often in Mass Shootings?
Concealable handguns have been involved in a majority of mass attacks for decades. But the use of rifles is becoming more common.
Biden’s Enhanced Background Checks Appear to Be Working
New FBI data shows that the system has stopped hundreds of young adults who shouldn’t have guns from buying them.
What to Know This Week
In Nashville, a group of country music stars is challenging the Tennessee government’s hard-right turn, including rallying around gun reform. Their movement illustrates the stark political divide between country progressives and mainstream stars on Music Row, home to musicians like Jason Aldean — who recently released a music video for a song about gun rights that was filmed at the site of a lynching. [Billboard/The New Yorker/Associated Press]
As swiftly as it began, America’s crime spike that started in 2019 — and worsened with the pandemic — has ended, with homicides on track to fall by double digits in 2023. Despite the current drop, we’re still seeing more homicides than we did in 2019, and more homicides than any other developed economy in the world. [New York Magazine]
After the Parkland massacre in 2018, then-President Donald Trump publicly urged lawmakers to pass gun safety legislation. Privately, however, his administration effectively handed the NRA “veto power” over its response to the shooting, according to a former Homeland Security official who worked under Trump. [Vanity Fair]
On the cusp of what’s widely considered hip-hop’s 50th birthday, Las Vegas Police are investigating a new lead into rap luminary Tupac Shakur’s 1996 shooting death. [Associated Press] Context: That Shakur’s high-profile killing has gone unsolved is no exception when it comes to gun homicides in major U.S. cities.
There’s a national crisis in the family court system: Nearly every six days in the U.S., a recent report found, a child is killed amid a custody dispute, family court lapse, or other mishaps. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for these kids. [USA TODAY]
Researchers in Brooklyn spent months interviewing people aged 14 to 24 to answer an increasingly urgent question: Why do young people carry guns? [Gothamist] Context: Nearly a third of young people say they have experienced gun violence personally, according to a survey released last September.
A federal judge found that Oregon’s new voter-approved ban on large-capacity magazines and permit-to-purchase requirements don’t violate the Constitution. Will the case end up at the Supreme Court? [OPB]
San Jose, California’s law requiring gun owners to carry liability insurance survived a major legal challenge this week. But the city still doesn’t know if gun owners are complying, and it may never get that data. [The Mercury News] Context: San Jose was the first city in the country to mandate gun liability policies. It was never clear if the plan would work as advertised.
We want to hear from you. The Trace’s Selin Thomas is looking to speak with people about firearm purchases. If you’ve ever thought about buying a gun, or talked to a family member about it, share your experience by responding to the appropriate questionnaire below:
- Have you considered purchasing a firearm? Let us know →
- Have you talked to a member of your household about purchasing a firearm? Let us know →
Agya K. Aning and Laura Esposito contributed to this section.
Spotlight on Solutions
On Thursday, Illinois advocates and faith leaders launched a statewide network of 13 Community Healing Resource Centers — part of a violence-prevention initiative to provide spaces for community healing, including services like therapy and medical support. By design, seven of them are in the Chicago neighborhoods, like Austin and Englewood, that face the brunt of the city’s gun violence crisis. Advocates said the centers help fill a gap left after former Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed several mental health facilities. Delrice Adams, executive director of Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, said that they’ll serve people who have been traumatized in their neighborhoods, and strive to break the cycle of violence that occurs when “hurt people, hurt people.” — Rita Oceguera, Chicago reporter
Dzhoy Zuckerman, 27, was, perhaps more than anything else, a biker. They were a regular and beloved sight on D.C.’s streets, The Washington Post reports, often whizzing by on a bicycle that always had a touch of purple, their favorite color. Zuckerman was shot and killed in the District last weekend. They led a 30-mile bike ride — dubbed the Purple Ride — each week, and their job as a flower deliverer meant that they could spend many days cycling through the city. Zuckerman was also an impressive juggler: They’d picked up the skill to deal with an eye injury while growing up in Ukraine, and held public clinics to teach others after moving to the U.S. They were charismatic and jovial, a friend told the Post, someone who could always make her laugh. “Phenomenal person,” another D.C. cyclist told News4. “This is a person that’s so uplifting in our community.”
‘We’re Truly Not Valued’: In New Orleans, Black Mothers Are Increasingly the Victims of Gun Violence
“Asia was the type of person who would stand up for people around her. She hated bullies and she always wanted to protect people, her mother said. ‘You don’t have “bodyguard” written on your forehead,’ Davis told her daughter, then in high school, after she got into a fight on behalf of someone who was being picked on. But Asia was also a type of person who many people do not stand up for: a Black woman and single mother.” [The 19th]
“What we find, almost across the board, is that they’re very mindful of what it means to carry a gun. They know that it’s a serious thing, but they also feel like they just don’t have other choices.”
— Elise White, a researcher with the Center for Justice Innovation, on why young people carry guns, to Gothamist