Pushing back against arguments raised by Attorney General Ashley Moody and the National Rifle Association, gun-control supporters contend the Florida Supreme Court should sign off on a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at blocking possession of assault weapons.
The political committee Ban Assault Weapons NOW, the gun-control group Brady and a coalition of 13 cities filed briefs Friday saying that the proposal meets legal tests to go before voters. The Supreme Court must sign off on proposed constitutional amendments and looks at the wording of ballot titles and summaries — the parts of amendments that voters see when they go to the polls.
Moody’s office, the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation filed briefs last month raising a series of objections to the proposed amendment, including the NRA taking issue with the term “assault weapons,” which it described as impermissible political rhetoric.
But the backers of the proposed amendment disputed such arguments in the briefs filed Friday and said the wording clearly informs voters about the intent of the measure. The proposal emerged after the February 2018 mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people.
“The intent of the sponsor and supporters, which include law enforcement and military veterans, is to prevent future tragedies by restricting the possession of the most lethal firearms that may be used to commit mass killings,” the Ban Assault Weapons NOW brief said. “The proposal specifically targets semiautomatic rifles and shotguns that are capable of accepting more than 10 rounds at once and does not include any firearms that do not meet the definition of an assault weapon.”
Ban Assault Weapons NOW has proposed placing the amendment on the November 2020 ballot, though it is unclear whether the committee can meet a February deadline for submitting 766,200 valid petition signatures to the state. As of Monday morning, it had submitted 124,683, according to the state Division of Elections website.
If it does not meet the signature deadline, the committee could try to put the proposal on the 2022 ballot. Backers of another amendment that seeks to expand Medicaid eligibility, for example, are seeking Supreme Court approval of their ballot wording but have already shifted their efforts to the 2022 election.
The Ban Assault Weapons NOW proposal calls for prohibiting “possession of assault weapons, defined as semiautomatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition-feeding device.” The measure builds in certain exemptions, including for assault weapons legally owned before the ban would take effect, though those guns would face a registration requirement.
In their brief last month, attorneys for Moody argued that the ballot wording would not give an adequate explanation of the effects of the proposal.
“The proposed amendment is, in practical application, a ban on virtually all semi-automatic long guns. This is so because virtually all semi-automatic long guns — either off-the-shelf or by virtue of broadly available accessories — hold, or are ‘capable’ of holding, more than 10 rounds of ammunition,” Moody’s lawyers wrote. “The ballot summary does not disclose this effect, which Florida voters are unlikely to understand absent explanation.”
The NRA meanwhile, focused heavily on the term “assault weapons.”
“The amendment hides behind political rhetoric and a misleading ballot summary to coax voters into abridging their existing right under the Florida Constitution to keep and bear arms and criminalizing the most commonly owned rifles and shotguns in America,” lawyers for the gun-rights organization wrote.
But attorneys for Brady, formerly known as the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, wrote that assault weapons is a “neutral descriptor” and not political rhetoric.
“Not only is the history of the term ‘assault weapons’ much more complicated than is presented by opponents, that history is a red herring intended to distract from what is actually at issue — that the term ‘assault weapons’ is currently widely used and understood by both voters and legislators to describe a particular category of semi-automatic long gun,” the brief said.
Also, supporters of the measure said its effects would be clear to voters.
“The proposal defines weapons with the most lethal characteristics. That purpose is clear and explicit to the voters,” the Ban Assault Weapons NOW brief said. “A reasonable voter can determine whether the possession of (a) particular weapon is prohibited or whether that particular weapon is exempt under the proposal. Further, the speculation about how many weapons will be banned ignores the exemption for currently possessed assault weapons that are registered.”
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida
Randy Jones says
Ban unlawful opioid distribution, possession and use and save over 60,000 lives per year in the U.S. alone. Oh, wait . . . .
Jane Gentile-Youd says
I want to volunteer to collect signatures . Shame on our legislature for not just making this the law by themselves. What kind of insane world are we living in that we have to beg for the right to try to protect our lives from the threat of being blown up 10 of us per second? I can’t think of a cause more worthy to donate my time for.
Randy Jones says
Ms. Gentile-Youd – We don’t have to beg for the right to try to protect our lives, the lives of our loved ones or others in our community. That right is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the State of Florida. My favorite cause for volunteering is mentoring youth toward duty to God and others so that they too will one day volunteer for a worthy cause.
Assault weapons if made available need to have,a whole new level of criteria qualifications to apply for ownership. I don’t really see the puroose for most citizens.
Trailer Bob says
Just because you choose to call it an “assault weapon” doesn’t change the facts that many Americans possess a rifle that is labeled and “assault” weapon. I own one, and love to shoot for practice. It is actually still a sport. What annoys me most is that 99.5% of rifle owners are kind, honest, and law abiding people. Doesn’t matter if someone were to kill my wife using a AK15 or a pistol, she is still dead.
I am happy for you that you don’t think we have a “Puroose” for these rifles, and that is because you personally are afraid of them. The actual problem we are seeing is mentally ill (nuts) people who are bent on violence and would find another way, should there be no assault rifles available to them.
Come come over to my house if you want to learn or experience the joy of target practice. Lots of fun, and I am actually a normal loving person with a gun. Maybe I should push for a ban on automobiles, as many more die each day in car accidents. Please do as you like, but keep your hands our of my personal life. Sincerely, a US Army Veteran.
Traveling Rep says
When will these meatheads ever learn, banning guns from law abiding citizens is not the answer. Criminals could care less about some stupid ban – they are going to commit crimes either way.
Trailer Bob says
So I see I could keep my rifle, but would I ever be able to buy ammo again? You do realize that no one ever talks about making automobiles illegal, even though more people die from auto accidents than guns, right? I guess it is easy to say we should get rid of our guns, when they have no interest in having one. But at least someone finally figured out that it is much more acceptable to try to get rid of these guns when you let those of us in possession keep what we own already. UNfortunately, if this passes, there will still be murders, and they will be at the same rates as they are currently. Anyone can get a weapon if they wish…and that will not change should this law pass. But hey…it will make some people feel good…lol.
Hopefully Bunnell, Flagler, and Palm Coast will sign up to get these weapons banned also.
Trailer Bob says
Good luck with Bunnell. I can see you did not grow up here…lol
That is why the smart legal gun owner keeps a good stockpile of ammo. We are forward thinking. As far as banning assault weapons try it, didn’t work last time and those who already have them keep them. And many owners have Multiple, so touche.
Gun runner says
If assault was actually a definable classification of firearm, you’d still abridge millions of citizens rights while not preventing a criminal from doing a criminal act. See the 1994 assault weapon ban, it was pointless. Well other than the H&K SL-8, which was designed around the ban and would most likely still be compliant with this new non-sensical, emotion driven and irrational ban with a completely unclear definition.
First off, you have to know what a true assault rifle is. And the rifles they are talking about banning are not true assault rifles. True assault weapons are already illegal to own by just anyone. Two…the snowball effect is too late. People ask why is it necessary for civilians to own rifles like ar-15s. Because they make them, thats why. Its evolution of time. First it was hands, then spears, bows, graduated to muskets… to trump that better guns were invented to over power the enemies weapon. Next thing you know, we have nuclear bombs!!!! Its about having a firepower advantage. So ban all the rifles, and defend yourself with a sling shot, while your attacker has an ak47.
@The sane comments here are heartening and welcome.
The weird, and pathetic, raving of paranoid gun lovers is just that. And like the NRA, it evokes the smell of gangrenous decay and death. Sad.
gun deaths by country