U.S. Eleventh Circuit - The FindLaw 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

NRA Must Name Teen Doe Plaintiffs in Gun Control Challenge

In the wake of the Parkland school shooting, the Florida legislature passed some gun control measures to restrict individuals under the age of 21 from being able to purchase certain firearms, as well as imposing a three-day waiting period.

In response to that legislation, the NRA filed a lawsuit on behalf of one 19-year-old Jane Doe and one 19-year-old John Doe, to challenge the law. Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, the NRA's motion to keep the Doe plaintiffs' identities secret was shot down by the court, despite the judge's clear sympathy for the plight of the plaintiffs.

Law and Munition

The NRA argued that as a result of the online threats and harassment that one of their lobbyists received in the state related to this case, the plaintiffs, if named, were very likely to endure similar harassment and threats. The court agreed that the likelihood of harassment was high, but that was not enough to persuade the judge to keep the plaintiffs anonymous. The court explained that plaintiffs in other cases that faced particular, actual, harassment and threats (that weren't just online) were denied the right to prosecute lawsuits anonymously. Additionally, the court found the fact that the plaintiffs were not minors significant as well.

The federal district court judge hearing the matter channeled his inner Captain Obvious and explained (in reference to how online vitriol works and is regarded by the courts): "Articles get posted online, and the responding comments, tweets, and whatever-else-have-yous often devolve into a rhetorical barrage of hate. Unfortunately, it seems the internet just doesn't always bring out the best in us."

The judge further lamented: "Maybe the law should be modified to reflect these changes. But it's not this court's job to change the law; this court's job is to apply the law."

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