ASSAULT WEAPON BAN IN FLORIDA
Florida citizens are taking measures into their own hands. Two new petitions to ban assault weapons have begun making the rounds successfully in Florida. These two constitutional amendments are fighting for a presence on Florida ballots in November 2020.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released statistics on Firearm Mortality by Statefor the year of 2017. Florida was ranked 3rdin firearm deaths, only behind Texas and California. In terms of mass shootings, Florida has held this spot consistently for the last five years.California has twice as many people, yet Florida manages to claim that 2ndplace title when it comes to the number of deaths resulting from mass shootings. Since 2014, Florida has suffered from 117 mass shootings. That’s one mass shooting every two weeks. This includes, Orlando’s Pulse night club, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and most recently, an active shooter was wounded this last Thursday (August 15th, 2019) in a Pensacola grocery store.
The problem has become part of the nation’s way of life. It has developed into a Floridian reality. Our politician’s have left us stranded in fear. How much more can Floridian’s take? When is enough, enough? When will someone, somewhere, do something?
Thankfully someone, somewhere in Florida isdoing something. Do Something Florida! is a bipartisan coalition that grew out of Americans for Gun Safety Now (AFGSN)and Ban Assault Weapons Now (BAWN). In support of Do Something Florida!, BAWN states that “Again and again, we’ve stood witness to innocent lives lost at the hands of madmen armed with military-style assault weapons like AR-15. Again and again our elected leaders have failed to act on getting these weapons of war out of civilian hands. For our children, for our families, for our loved ones, and for our communities, we must act where politicians have failed.” Do Something Florida! is leading the campaign for support of the a constitutional amendment coming to Florida ballots next year.
The Florida Ban on Semi-automatic Rifles and Shotguns Initiative (Initiative #19-01) is set to appear on Florida ballots on November 3, 2020. This constitutional amendment would ban possession of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.So what does this mean?
Let’s break it down, so you understand exactly what is being proposed in this amendment. Semi-automaticis defined in this initiative as “any weapon which fires a single projectile or a number of ball shots through a rifled or smooth bore for each single function of the trigger without further manual action required.” Further, Assault Weaponis defined in this measure as “any semi-automatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in a fixed or detached magazine, or any other ammunition feeding device.” This definition of assault weaponswould exclude handguns.
Initiative #19-01 would amend Section 8 of Article 1 of the Florida Constitution which allows citizens the Right to Bear Arms. This proposed measure will be presented on the ballot as “Prohibits Possession of Defined Assault Weapons.” The summary of the proposed ballot states: “Prohibits 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. Possession of handguns is not prohibited. Exempts military and law enforcement personnel in their official duties. Exempts and requires registration of assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to this provision’s effective date. Creates criminal penalties for violations of this amendment.” The effective date of the measure will be 30 days after the measure is approved by Florida voters.
For a person who lawfully owns an assault weapon prior to this measure’s effective date or after the weapon’s owner registers the gun’s make, model, and serial number with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. These register records will be available to federal, state, and local divisions of law enforcement. Under the measure, penalty for violation of this law would be a third-degree felony.
Gail Schwartz, whose nephew was a victim of the Parkland killer, is the chair of Do Something Florida! When questioned about the proposed measure, she said, “One year after our beautiful children and loved ones were killed in Parkland, we are turning our grief into action. This is not about taking away anyone’s rights; it’s about saving lives… We ask our fellow Floridians to join us in helping to send a message that we will no longer sit idly by while our precious children and fellow Floridians succumb to weapons meant for war zones. It is time for Florida to do something.” In an interview with WFLA Channel 8, Schwartz further stated that, “No one else should ever have to live the nightmare my family and others are living in. And what we want to do is help save lives… We will be preventing mass shooting.” This sentiment seems to be echoed by the nation.
A Gallup poll taken in October 2018 revealed that 61% of Americans are in favor of stricter gun control laws.Asked specifically about background checks, that number rises to 90% favorable, according to polls by Fox News, Associated Press and others.
Despite all their efforts, there are still those who would seek to hinder the efforts of groups like BAWN, AFGSN and Do Something Florida! As Florida’s proposed amendment draws national attention, opponents to the measure are taking action against Floridian’s safety. Particularly, Florida’s Attorney General, Ashley Moody is fighting the initiative in court. Moody claims the measure’s “particular wording… will mislead voters into thinking it is particular type of weapon, but is indeed more.” Additionally, Orange County’s Republican Chair, Charles Hart has charged democrats with using the proposed amendment to take advantage of suffering people and thus removing the people fundamental constitutional right to own such weapons.
After a petition reaches 76,620 verified signatures it goes before the Florida Supreme Court for a review to ensure it meets ballot requirements. This is where Moody, Hart, the NRA and even Governor DeSantis will likely attack the measure from every available avenue.
Patricia Brigham, the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, proclaimed her faith in the measure, as she stated that public opinion polls have consistently revealed a high majority of Florida voters are in favor of some type of ban on assault weapons. This is also evidenced by a second initiative making notable progress in Florida. The Florida Ban on Military-Style Firearms and Disqualifications for Firearm Possession Initiative (Initiative #18-03) was approved for circulation on April 6, 2018.
With so much in the works for gun control laws in Florida, the Sunshine State is set to be crucial territory for 2020 elections. If these amendment’s reach Florida’s ballots, we can rest assured that Floridian’s will make their voices on gun control heard. For politician’s who have failed to take action, it may be a coming reckoning as well. Where our politicians have failed to make progress, Florida citizen’s have made some headway. It is time to do something Florida!
Be part of the solution and sign these petitions to save Florida lives here: https://bit.ly/2eqwmDand https://bawnfl.org/banassaultweaponsnowpetition.pdf.
–K. Piper, Contributing Writer
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Robinson, Kevin and Warren-Hicks, Colin, Deputy wounds ‘active shooter’ inside Pensacola grocery store, USA Today, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/08/15/pensacola-active-shooter-deputy-shoots-suspect-grocery-advantage-store/2026774001/
Ban Assault Weapons Now, “Leadership.”https://bawnfl.org/mission.html.
Ballotpedia, Florida Ban on Semiautomatic Rifles and Shotguns Initiative (2020),https://ballotpedia.org/Florida_Ban_on_Semiautomatic_Rifles_and_Shotguns_Initiative_(2020)
Uria, Daniel, Gallup poll: 61 percent of Americans favor stricter gun laws, UPI, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2018/10/17/Gallup-poll-61-percent-of-Americans-favor-stricter-gun-laws/1061539823217/
Chokey, Aric, and Man, Anthony, Drive to get assault weapons ban on Florida ballot rasises big money, SunSentinel, https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/fl-ne-florida-assault-weapons-ban-big-money-20190805-dtovjen56zbk7medvlusua2rpe-story.html
Maxwell, Scott, Assault Weapons ban in Florida?, Orlando Sentinel, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/scott-maxwell-commentary/os-op-florida-assault-weapons-ashley-moody-scott-maxwell-20190802-ffjhbiqekvg2bk67frlzgnaznu-story.html