The National Rifle Association failed to provide evidence that two 19-year-olds who wish to join in the group’s lawsuit over Florida’s new gun-control law would have their privacy violated or be put at risk of physical harm by being publicly named, a judge was told.
The NRA, which wants a judge to let the teenagers participate as “John Doe” and “Jane Doe,” is seeking protection usually reserved for plaintiffs in extreme circumstances, such as children who’ve been abused by clergy or adults who must hide their sexuality or HIV status for safety reasons, Florida said in a filing last week in federal court in Tallahassee.
“This is not such a case,” Amit Agarwal, a lawyer for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, said in the filing. “A litigant’s status as a plaintiff is not highly sensitive and personal information.”
The NRA sued after Florida raised the age for purchasing guns to 21 from 18 following the February massacre of 17 students and faculty at a high school in Parkland. The NRA claims the law violates the Second Amendment rights of citizens ages 18 to 20, while gun-control advocates say people who can’t buy alcohol shouldn’t be allowed to buy an AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle similar to the one used in the Parkland shooting.
The gun lobby group said in an April filing that the teens, at least one of whom is an NRA member, could be put in danger by public attention.
But the state argued that the NRA had failed to provide any evidence that public exposure of the plaintiffs’ names would subject them to “harassment, intimidation, and potentially even physical violence,” as the group claimed.
Florida noted that the NRA failed to show that none of its other of Florida members — numbering in the thousands — were willing or able to be named plaintiffs. The state also pointed out that many gun-rights advocates, including younger individuals, had been named in other gun-rights cases without incident.
“The strong presumption in favor of openness in judicial proceedings may not be discarded to avoid unwanted public attention and censure,” the state said. “This case is no more controversial than countless others — including others involving substantially similar claims.”
Florida said that the safety of the teenagers and any other plaintiffs involved in controversial litigation is important, but that existing laws give them all the protection and legal rights they need.
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