TALLAHASSEE — Florida Republican lawmakers are moving forward with a proposal to raise the minimum age for purchasing assault rifles in the state from 18 to 21 despite the opposition of the National Rifle Association.
“It doesn’t complicate my efforts,” Republican state Sen. Bill Galvano, the next Senate president, said Thursday, when asked about the NRA’s position. “I think the desire to act and do something meaningful right now seems to be what’s going to win the day.”
Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the NRA, announced Wednesday that the group would oppose efforts to raise the age in the wake of a deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Under federal law, licensed purchasers of handguns must be 21, but states can set the age for rifle purchases.
“Passing a law that makes it illegal for a 20-year-old to purchase a shotgun for hunting or an adult single mother from purchasing the most effective self-defense rifle on the market punishes law-abiding citizens for the evil acts of criminals,” Baker said in a statement.
Galvano said he had discussed his proposal for raising the age with Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a likely U.S. Senate candidate this year, who has long been a champion of the NRA. “I was very specific with the governor yesterday as to what we were thinking in terms of the gun safety parts. And he listened,” Galvano said. “There was not pushback, so to speak.”
Galvano said the discussion focused on what types of guns would fall under the new rule. He wants to require purchasers of any semiautomatic weapon to be at least 21 years old, leaving open the possibility that younger purchasers will still be able to purchase other types of rifles.
Republican Senate President Joe Negron said Thursday afternoon that the final proposal was a work in progress and would have to carefully balance constitutional rights with protecting public safety. New age limits, he said, were under consideration. “I want to make sure that we are doing it in a careful, thoughtful way,” he said.
Republican leaders from the Florida House and Senate said they will release their legislative proposals to respond to the mass shooting late Thursday or Friday. The governor has said he plans to announce his response Friday.
The proposals are likely to focus on a number of areas, including new funding to improve school security, a measure to permit trained school employees to carry guns and changes to state law to make it easier to remove guns from people deemed by a court to be a danger.
There is also likely to be funding to demolish and replace the building where the Feb. 14 shooting occurred. The Broward County School Board has asked the Florida legislature for $28.5 million to replace the building, including $450,000 for a memorial to the 17 students and faculty who were killed.
The NRA’s point person in Florida, Marion Hammer, has not made any public comment on the legislation. But other gun groups in the state have signaled that they have concerns.
“I fundamentally have a problem supporting anything that denies the rights of citizens because of the acts of criminals,” said Eric Friday, the general counsel of Florida Carry, a smaller gun-rights group in the state.
“Florida Carry has made very clear that we are watching and our members are watching,” he continued. “And the votes that are taken in these coming weeks will be a factor in the November elections and, more importantly, in the primaries.”
An earlier version of this story misidentified Jennifer Baker. It has been corrected.