House passes Palatka rep’s bill to lower gun-buying age

Published on March 1, 2024 at 2:30 pm

The Florida House on Friday passed a controversial bill sponsored by a Palatka lawmaker that would lower the minimum age to buy rifles and shotguns from 21 to 18.

The Republican-controlled House voted 76-35 along almost straight party lines to pass HB 1223, sponsored by Republican Rep. Bobby Payne of Palatka.

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Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, R-St. Johns, joined Democrats in voting against the bill.

The Senate has no companion bill, so the proposal is unlikely to pass the Legislature this year.

The bill would reverse a decision that raised the minimum age after the 2018 mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people in 2018. Federal law bars people under 21 from buying handguns.

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Democrats on Friday repeatedly cited the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting as they opposed the bill. Rep. Robin Bartleman, D-Weston, said lawmakers should not “renege” on a promise the Legislature made when it passed the higher minimum age as part of a broader school-safety bill.

“Shame on us,” Bartleman said. “We told the citizens of Florida that we were going to protect them.”

But Payne pointed to Second Amendment rights and people needing to defend themselves.

“I’m not worried about our schools. Our schools are safe in Florida. We’ve heard it was the gold standard,” Payne said. “What I’m worried about is my kids, my grandkids and your kids that can’t defend themselves because we’re restricting their rights.”

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, has repeatedly said the Senate doesn’t have a similar bill, meaning the proposed age change will not pass during this year’s legislative session.

Besides Stevenson, Reps. Linda Chaney, R-St. Pete Beach, Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, and Vicki Lopez, R-Miami, joined Democrats in voting against the bill.

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