TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A federal judge ruled that the National Rifle Association must disclose the names of two teenagers if it wants to use them in a lawsuit challenging Florida's new gun law.
The NRA is suing to block Florida's new gun law that requires anyone wanting to buy a gun to be 21 years old. The state included the age restrictions in a sweeping gun safety bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott shortly after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Citing the harassment of one of its top Florida officials who was subjecting to threatening and profanity-laced emails and phone calls, attorneys for the NRA wanted to include a 19-year-old woman as a plaintiff in the lawsuit but wanted to keep her name confidential and instead identify her as Jane Doe. The NRA also sought to include testimony from another 19-year-old man as well. The move was challenged by Attorney General Pam Bondi.
But U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled Sunday that parties in lawsuits must use their real names except in a select number of cases. He said that he sympathized with the position of the NRA, but said his hands were tied by previous court decisions on the use of anonymous names.
"If it were entirely up to this court, the court would not hesitate to grant the NRA's motion," Walker wrote in his ruling. "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. And this court has no doubt the harassment goes both ways."
Marion Hammer, a former president of the NRA and its top Florida lobbyist, said the NRA was "very disappointed" in the judge's decision, but said that it was "too soon" to know what steps the organization would take next.
"We're trying to shield these young adults from some of the most evil, hateful stuff you can imagine," Hammer said in an email. "... Individuals should be able to stand up for their rights and beliefs in the Second Amendment without having to expose themselves to harassment and bullying."