A Florida judge denied the National Rifle Association’s request to have two 19-year-old gun enthusiasts anonymously join the group’s lawsuit challenging new age requirements for gun purchases.
The NRA sued after the state’s Republican-led legislature raised the age for buying guns to 21 from 18 in response to the February massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida. The NRA has sought to let the teenagers participate as “John Doe” and “Jane Doe” because NRA workers had received threats after the attack.
In a ruling Sunday in Tallahassee, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said he “would not hesitate” to grant the NRA’s request if it were only up to him. But federal courts in Florida are bound by an appeals court’s precedent, the judge said, and can’t allow anonymous parties except in exceptional circumstances.
“One need only look to the harassment suffered by some of the Parkland shooting survivors to appreciate the vitriol that has infected public discourse about the Second Amendment,” the judge wrote. “And this court has no doubt that the harassment goes both ways.”
Walker suggested the law should perhaps be changed to let people join litigation under pseudonyms, given the “barrage of hate” that can now easily be spread on social media and the 24-hour news cycle when someone is publicly associated with a controversial lawsuit. But for now the judge said his hands are tied because the case doesn’t involve matters of “utmost intimacy.”
The judge ordered the NRA to file an amended complaint without pseudonyms by May 21.
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.
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