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NRA sues Florida for passing gun reforms following Parkland shooting

An hour after the governor signed the bill.

Police officers stand in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as students return after February's mass shooting. CREDIT: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Police officers stand in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as students return after February's mass shooting. CREDIT: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Under intense pressure from advocates — namely teenagers who survived a horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead — the Florida state legislature passed new bill that placed several restrictions on purchasing firearms in the state.

Shortly after Gov. Rick Scott (R), surrounded by Parkland victims’ parents, signed the bill Friday, the National Rifle Association (NRA) sued.

The new law raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and extends the waiting period to three days for the purchase of all firearms. It also gives law enforcement more power to seize weapons, prohibits the sale of “bump stocks” — devices that can be put on semi-automatic weapons to increase their rate of fire. The measure also allows some school personnel to be armed.

While more guns in schools has long been advocated by the NRA, the gun lobby staunchly opposed the Florida legislation, saying it “punishes law-abiding gun owners for the criminal acts of a deranged individual.”

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The NRA’s lawsuit, filed in federal court an hour after Scott signed the bill into law, names Attorney General Pam Bondi and Rick Swearingen, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Tallahassee Democrat reported“We filed a lawsuit against the state for violating the constitutional rights of 18- to 21-year-olds,” said Marion Hammer, the NRA’s powerful Florida lobbyist

Gun control advocates and Democrats in the Florida state legislature pushed for the legislation to go further — including measures like universal background checks and a ban on assault rifles, and removing the provision that allows select school staff to carry firearms — but its passage represents a significant break from the NRA nonetheless. Scott, who previously enjoyed an A-plus rating from the NRA, ignored the gun lobby’s strong urging and signed the bill. And 67 Republicans with A ratings from the NRA voted for the bill, according to an analysis by The Trace.

“We haven’t seen a Republican-controlled state rally to pass significant gun restrictions after a mass shooting. Not after Charleston in 2015, not after Las Vegas last October — not, for that matter, after Orlando in 2016,” The Trace, an independent news site focused on gun violence, notes.

Much of the credit for passing any sort of gun reform in Florida is owed to the Parkland students, whose continued, uncompromising activism has forced tangible action to undercut the NRA’s vast influence — and sparked a wave of students across the country demanding gun reforms. Scott himself acknowledged as much while signing the bill Friday. “You made your voices heard,” he told the students. “You helped change your state. You made a difference. You should be proud.”

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Florida’s new law isn’t the only threat to the NRA in the wake of last month’s Parkland shooting. ThinkProgress has reported on the roughly two dozen corporations that cut ties with the NRA over the past few weeks, as well as retailers like Dick’s and Walmart raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, and major banks and asset managers rethinking their business relationships with both the NRA and gun manufacturers.

Taken together it seems this time, finally, might be different.