Lawmakers' Bill Would Make It A Crime For Juveniles To Post Pictures Of Guns
Tallahassee, FL – Two Florida legislators want to make it illegal for minors to post pictures of guns – including Nerf guns - to social media.
Florida State Senator Jason Pizzo and State Representative Shevrin Jones want to criminalize minors posting pictures of firearms, or pictures of things that looks like firearms, to social media, WBBH reported.
Florida Senate Bill 1310, introduced by Pizzo, would make “the posting or publishing of a picture of a firearm, BB gun, air or gas-operated gun, or device displayed to resemble a firearm to social media by a minor” illegal.
Under the proposed law, if a minor is caught violating the law, their parents may be forced to take parenting classes or perform community service with their offending child.
The proposed legislation also says “any firearm that is possessed or used by a minor in violation of this section shall be promptly seized by a law enforcement officer and disposed of.”
Under the new law, parents of minors who have been caught posting pictures of firearms could be subject to criminal charges if their children were able to access and photograph their guns because the weapons weren’t properly locked away.
Florida House Bill 1165, the companion bill in the state house that was authored by Jones, also wants juvenile offenders to do community service in hospital trauma centers, WBBH reported.
Critics from both sides of the aisle have pointed out the obvious constitutional challenges in the proposed bills.
“This is an obvious First Amendment violation: The statute isn't limited to displays that constitute true threats of violence (there's a First Amendment exception for such true threats), or possession of guns by minors in violation of state law,” University of Southern California – Los Angeles Law Professor Eugene Volokh wrote for Reason. “Indeed, it would be a crime for a minor to post a photo of himself lawfully using a gun at a shooting range.”
Volokh also pointed out that minors who posted pictures of guns as political statements in opposition to gun violence would also be subject to prosecution under the law.
Pictures of military personnel carrying weapons would also be violations of the proposed law, he said.
Pizzo has been active on social media defending his bill saying that the bill only addresses posting already-unlawful possession. But the language of the law even criminalizes pictures of guns which aren't in possession of the juvenile, or a picture of something which simply looks like a gun.
Aaron Forum, owner of the Shoot Center in Cape Coral, told WBBH that he has seen lots of parents taking pictures of their children firing weapons at his range.
"We have a lot who bring their kids in to teach them gun safety and to enjoy recreational shooting. So, we do see a lot of pictures of minors shooting with their parents, and they are our customers,” Forum said.
Volokh called the pending legislation “an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech.”
The lawmaker notes that the bill says it doesn't apply to the exceptions provided in the law against juveniles possessing guns. However those exceptions wouldn't apply, because possession is not even an element of the crime in Pizzo's bill.