71 Am. U. L. Rev. 299 (2021).

Abstract

After the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that took the lives of seventeen students and staff members and injured countless others, the community debated how this event could have been prevented. There were security failures on the part of the school and police—unlocked doors, passive deputies and a security guard, and a broken PA system—all of which may have lessened the casualties had they been operating properly. However, these security measures might not have been tested and found lacking if another preventative measure had already taken place: prohibiting the young shooter from legally purchasing a weapon.          

Florida legislators passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act in response to the tragedy, which prevents people under twenty-one from purchasing a firearm. The National Rifle Association (NRA) quickly filed suit to enjoin the law, asserting that it violated the Second Amendment. The district court determined that the Public Safety Act was constitutional, and the NRA promptly appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.       

This Comment argues the Act passes constitutional muster because age-based restrictions on purchasing weapons do not violate the Second Amendment under the two-step test. A historical analysis of case precedent, commentary, and laws existing near the nation’s founding support holding the Public Safety Act constitutional at step one. However, because there is some conflict within the historical record, a court could, out of an abundance of caution, move to step two. Under step two, a court should apply intermediate scrutiny to the Act because it does not implicate the “core” of the Second Amendment’s protections—self-defense in the home. When assessed with intermediate scrutiny, it is clear that the Public Safety Act contains an important government interest in protecting public safety and is reasonably tailored to that goal because it leaves alternative channels to purchase firearms and contains exemptions for purchases by certain groups such as military members. Because the Act contains an important government interest and reasonably fits that objective, the Act is constitutional.

* Senior Forum Editor, American University Law Review, Volume 71; J.D. Candidate, May 2022, American University Washington College of Law; B.A. Political Science and Economics, Boston University. Endless gratitude to the Law Review staff for their insightful feedback, especially my Comment editor, Scout Henninger, and my final editor, Bethany Callahan; to my dad and grandparents for supporting me in every way imaginable; to Mr. Buck, my AP U.S. Government teacher, for encouraging his students to engage with public policy and to pursue their interests; and to Christian, for his unconditional love and midnight snack-making throughout this process. Finally, I would like to thank the students and parents of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for their continued advocacy, persistence, and perseverance. You are an inspiration to all.

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