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NRA Suit Over Florida Gun Law Back On After Dropped Appeal

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 11/21/2019 Erik Larson
a person holding a gun: An attendee fires an AR-15 style airgun during a laser simulation on the exhibit floor during the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. © Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg An attendee fires an AR-15 style airgun during a laser simulation on the exhibit floor during the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.

(Bloomberg) -- A Second Amendment lawsuit the National Rifle Association filed against Florida over a gun-control measure the state enacted after a deadly mass shooting is back on track after an 18-month delay.

The NRA sued last year after Florida’s Republican-led legislature raised the age for buying so-called long guns to 21 from 18 in response to the massacre of 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by a 19-year-old former student, who legally purchased the AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle he used in the attack.

The case had been on hold since the NRA appealed an early ruling that denied its attempt to let two 19-year-old Florida residents participate in the lawsuit under pseudonyms. This week the NRA dropped the appeal, without explanation, and on Wednesday Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee lifted a stay on the case.

The suit is unusual in that it pits the NRA against a state where gun control measures are scarce and the Second Amendment’s firearms rights are sacred. The NRA claims the Florida law violates the constitutional rights of citizens 18 to 20 years old, while supporters of the law say people who can’t buy beer shouldn’t be allowed to buy an AR-15.

The NRA’s lawyers didn’t respond to messages seeking comment on the case.

Read More: NRA Tells Judge It Fears Harassment in Suit Over Florida Gun Law

The NRA had argued in its appeal that the two 19-year-old gun enthusiasts would be put at risk if their names were made public, citing threatening emails and phone calls it had received in the days after the massacre, when the NRA was publicly attacking gun control advocates.

On Tuesday, the NRA filed an amended complaint that dropped the two plaintiffs and added Radford Fant, an NRA member between 18 and 21 who wants to buy a handgun and a long gun “for self-defense and other lawful purposes.”

The case is being revived just as another lawsuit over a school shooting -- the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School-- was cleared to proceed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case is National Rifle Association v. Swearingen, 4:18-cv-137, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida (Tallahassee).

Read More: Anonymous Teens Can’t Take Part in NRA Suit Over Florida Law

(Updates with details of law in second paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in New York at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Peter Jeffrey

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