There’s a push underway in Florida to put a ban on so-called “assault weapons” on the 2020 ballot, and gun control groups are asking the state Supreme Court to green light their efforts. The state’s Attorney General, along with the NRA, have argued that the proposed ballot measure is misleading and politically charged, and should be rejected by the Supreme Court, and now control groups have weighed in with their response.
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…
“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.”
Which definition of “assault weapon” would that be? After all, given that the phrase “assault weapon” is an invented term, its definition changes over time and in various jurisdictions. California’s definition of “assault weapon” is different than New York’s, and most states don’t have no definition at all.
The real definition of “assault weapon” is “gun I want to ban,” and according to the language from Ban Assault Weapons Now, they want to ban a lot of guns. Here’s the language that would appear on the ballot in 2020 if the group gets its way.
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 definition of “assault weapon” that the gun control groups are using is different from any other definition I’ve ever read. California’s definition of an “assault weapon”, which is probably the most restrictive in the nation, requires a detachable magazine or a fixed magazine of more than ten rounds. California’s law also bans certain semi-automatic handguns, while the proposed language in Florida specifically mentions that handguns aren’t covered under the ban.
Somehow I doubt that Ban Assault Weapons Now is really okay with AR-15 pistols, but those firearms would be exempt from this version of their gun ban. I suspect the idea is to get a simple ban on the books, and then expand it to cover even more firearms in future referendums or if the state legislature ever flips to an anti-gun majority.
Of course, even if the Florida Supreme Court allows the ballot language to stand, the gun control groups still have to collect enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot, and right now it looks like they’re not doing so well.
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.
They still have a couple of months to collect nearly 650,000 signatures, but they’ve been working at this for several months and haven’t even gotten a quarter of the signatures they need. In reality, they’ll need to submit far more than 766,200 signatures, because invariably some of them will be signed “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself” or something along those lines. The state’s supreme court may allow this ballot measure to proceed, but Florida voters could shoot it down before it ever gets to the ballot to begin with.