A federal judge who ruled that a National Rifle Association-backed teenager who’s challenging new Florida gun control laws cannot remain anonymous was within his legal rights to do so, according to Judge Andrew Napolitano.
“The court rule is pretty clear,” he told FOX Business’ Stuart Varney during an interview on Tuesday. “You cannot file an anonymous lawsuit in the United States except under the narrowest, conceivable circumstances. And this young man does not fit in those circumstances.”
In March, following a Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead, Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law new legislation that tightened gun restrictions, including raising the minimum age for gun purchase to 21.
The NRA is challenging the age limit, arguing that 18-year-olds are within their constitutional right to bear arms. No individuals were originally named in the lawsuit.
While the judge acknowledged harassment would likely befall the teenager plaintiffs – and express sympathy for the two 19-year-olds – he wrote that he had no choice but to make their names public because the “mere evidence of threats and harassment made online is insufficient to outweigh the customary and constitutionally-embedded presumption of openness in judicial proceedings.”
“If it were entirely up to this court, this court would not hesitate to grant the NRA’s motion. 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 that the harassment goes both ways,” Judge Mark Walker wrote in his decision.
But even if the judge had granted anonymity to the plaintiffs, his decision likely would have been reversed by an appeals court, had the decision been appealed, Napolitano said. Even so, despite the unfavorable ruling, Napolitano said the lawsuit is unlikely to be withdrawn.
“These people are steadfast,” he said. “And he has the power and might and money of the NRA behind him.”