Ban Assault Weapons Now was formed in the wake of the shootings in Parkland, Florida in 2018 with the intent of getting a ban on semi-automatic rifles on the 2020 ballot in Florida, but after the group failed to collect enough signatures, they set their sights on the 2022 elections. Then, earlier this year the state Supreme Court rejected the language of the group’s ballot initiative, saying that it was misleading to voters and forcing the group to start all over again.
Now it appears BAWN has thrown in the towel, at least as far as banning guns via a voter referendum goes. Instead, on Thursday the group announced that it’s switching its focus and will try to elect anti-gun candidates to the Florida legislature instead.
The political committee had spent more than $2 million trying to get a proposed assault weapons ban amendment on the statewide ballot. But in June n a 4-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled BAWN’s proposed ballot summary did not pass muster because it “affirmatively misleads voters” and so the proposal could not be put on the ballot.
The BAWN political committee had raised more than $2.4 million for the effort and still has about $430,000 left, according to its most recent filings with the Florida Division of Elections.
With that, the group announced it will transition from an organization focused on banning assault weapons through a citizen petition initiative into an advocacy group supporting state legislative candidates committed to sponsoring an assault weapons ban in the Florida House and the Florida Senate.
FloridaPolitics reports that the group plans on donating to candidates as well as sending out its own independent mailers and communications in an attempt to flip the state legislature in November.
The group’s executive director Brendan Olsen stated “BAWN will work with anyone, regardless of political party, who is willing to help us take on gun violence by banning assault weapons. In memory of the countless lives we have lost to these killing machines and in gratitude to the hundreds of thousands of people who have signed our petition and donated to our cause, we vow to keep fighting every single day to protect our communities and make our state safer for everyone.”
Floridians simply haven’t shown much interest in banning the most commonly sold rifle in the United States, and I don’t think Olsen is going to find too many members of the GOP who are willing to sign on to a bill to AR-15s. Back in February, when the group had to turn in 766,200 valid signatures to get the proposed ban on this year’s ballot, the group was only able to submit 147,304 signatures from voters, despite months of work and over a million dollars spent on the signature gathering process.
Marion Hammer, executive director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida, pointed out in an alert to members that Gail Schwartz, one of the founders of the anti-gun group, told the Miami Herald that the group is hoping to replace “cowardly politicians” with “brave House and Senate candidates” who would back a gun ban. I hate to break it to Schwartz, but this issue has nothing to do with bravery or cowardice. It has everything to do with respecting the Second Amendment, understanding that we can’t ban our way to safety, and addressing the real issues that lead to violent crime, whether it’s committed with a fist, a knife, a handgun, or (rarely) a rifle.
Given the strong gun sales and new gun owners in the state, my guess is that BAWN is going to be just as successful in replacing pro-2A politicians with anti-gun candidates as they were at getting a gun ban on the ballot this year, but the group will be throwing several hundred thousand dollars into their efforts. Hopefully gun owners in the Sunshine State will be motivated and energized to turn out on Election Day to ensure that gun banners don’t make any gains this November.