The NRA sues after Florida brings in new gun control laws
The United States has some of the worst gun crime statistics in the world. The country contains 5 per cent of the world's population, yet holds 31 per cent of its mass shooters. Between 1966 and 2012, there were 90 mass shootings in America, with the country with the nearest figure coming in at 18. Another shocking fact: it turns out that Americans own 48% of all the civilian-owned guns worldwide.
One of the horrible results of these statistics is that when mass shootings occur in the US, it becomes part of a list rather than a singular horrifying incident. However, after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last month, there has been an even louder call to action than we usually see. People want gun control laws changed, and now it seems like there has been a small step in the right direction.
A new bill has been brought to Florida which will restrict gun-buyers in a few small ways. Republican Governor Rick Scott, a dedicated ally of the gun lobby, enacted the bill after the lawmakers at the Florida state level voted in favour of the law.
After the signing, he said he was a member of the National Rifle Association, and knew that some members would agree and some wouldn't. "It's an example to the entire country that government can and has, moved fast," he said.
While the bill was well-received by many, including some of the survivors from the Parkland shooting who attended the signing, the NRA believes it violates the constitution, filing the lawsuit on Friday a mere hour after bill was signed. But what exactly are these new laws?
First of all, we will see the minimum age for buying rifles rise from 18 to 21 in the state. This doesn't include the 18, 19, and 20-year-olds in the police and security forces. It will ban bump stocks, which are used to raise the firing speed of semi-automatic rifles, and it introduces a three-day waiting period on all gun purchases.
In addition to this, it made it easier for the police to confiscate weapons and ammunition from those who they deem likely to pose a threat of violent behaviour. The law also allows school staff to carry guns, with the agreement of their school district authorities and the sheriff's department.
The NRA's lawsuit has asked a judge to block the age restriction part of the new laws, which they deem to be unconstitutional. The gun lobbying group said that 18-year-olds are considered adults "for almost all purposes and certainly for the purposes of the exercise of fundamental constitutional rights".
They also brought up the oft-quoted Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms, as well as arguing that it breaches the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause by banning those from 18-21 from buying guns.
NRA spokesman Chris Cox said the bill "punishes law-abiding gun owners for the criminal acts of a deranged individual" and that "preventing a responsible 20-year-old from purchasing the best tool for self-defence will not stop a deranged criminal intent on committing a crime."
It's worth reiterating here that "the best tool for self-defence" they are referring to is a rifle, apparently, as these new age restrictions do not affect handguns.
While not everyone will agree on the moves made by the government so far, at least this bill shows steps are being taken to reduce the amount of gun violence in the country.