Florida Group Petitions for Weapons Ban, Long-Gun Registration

Published November 22, 2019

A group named Ban Assault Weapons Now (BAWN) is collecting petition signatures to place on the November 2020 general election ballot a proposed amendment to the Florida constitution banning semiautomatic weapons.

To qualify the proposition for the ballot, BAWN must submit 766,200 verified voter signatures to the state’s Division of Elections (DOE) by February 1, 2020.

BAWN submitted, and the elections department validated, 10 percent of the signatures required in June to meet the threshold for a mandatory review of BAWN’s proposed ballot language by the Florida Supreme Court on February 4, 2020.

If BAWN gathers enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot and it withstands legal challenges, the initiative will amend the state constitution if approved by at least 60 percent of those voting in the November 2020 election.

‘Attempting to Scare the Public’

The proposition is titled “Prohibits possession of defined assault weapons.” The ballot summary defines an assault weapon as “any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than ten (10) rounds of ammunition … in a fixed or detachable magazine.”

That is not the correct definition, says Lennie Jarratt, a government relations project manager at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News.

“An assault weapon is a weapon with select-fire capabilities, meaning they can be set to fire a single round per trigger pull, a burst of rounds per trigger pull, or they can be fully automatic,” Jarratt said. “Automatic weapons have been highly regulated since 1934 and banned from civilian ownership if manufactured after 1986.”

The ballot measure is attempting to equate semiautomatic weapons with automatic weapons, says Jarratt.

“This ballot measure is attempting to change the definition and equate a semiautomatic weapon, which only fires a single bullet with each trigger pull, with fully automatic weapons,” Jarratt said. “They are attempting to scare the public instead of inform the public.”

Calls It Unconstitutional

The Florida measure would effectively ban the sale of all semiautomatic rifles that accept a detachable magazine or another feeding device, says Jarratt.

“While it is possible to limit the detachable magazine to 10 rounds or fewer, it is impossible to limit a rifle from accepting a detachable magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds,” Jarratt said.

The initiative would violate the rights of Floridians guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, says Jarratt.

“With this new definition, they are attempting to circumvent the Second Amendment,” Jarratt said. “If passed, this amendment will assuredly be ruled unconstitutional. Unfortunately, it will cost tremendous amounts of money and years in courts to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.”

‘We Are Talking About Rights’

If the proposition appears on the November 2020 ballot, it will motivate people on both sides of the question to vote, says Dave Workman, senior editor of Gun Mag at the Second Amendment Foundation.

“The 2020 election is also an election for president,” Workman said. “I anticipate a very heavy turnout of voters in Florida, on both sides of the issue. So, this is not going to be a runaway election one way or the other. We are talking about a constitutionally protected right that really should not be up for a popularity vote.”

Ultimately, the ballot question is about individual rights, says Workman.

“That’s the unfortunate part about this,” Workman said. “We aren’t talking about guns. We are talking about rights. We have to zealously protect all of our rights. I think you’re going to see in 2020 that as this campaign unfolds, you’re going to see people coming out of the woodwork to protect their rights. These are people who may not vote all the time and just want to be left alone, but when you light their fire, you’ve got to be prepared to burn.”

Attorney General Petitions Court

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody argued in a July 26 filing with the Florida Supreme Court the title and ballot summary of the proposition are misleading because they do not disclose that “the amendment would ban the possession of virtually every semi-automatic long-gun.”

Moody further argues the proposition violates the single-subject requirement for citizen initiatives because owners of “defined assault weapons” acquired before the amendment takes effect would be required to register their firearms.

Savannah Edgens ([email protected]) writes from Gainesville, Florida.

Internet Info

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, “Petition to the Supreme Court of Florida,” Filing #93257401, July 26, 2019: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/petition-to-the-florida-supreme-court-for-a-written-opinion-on-initiative-petition