By: DJ Parten
For years, Florida has been one of the leading states in gun policy across the country. When Florida does something on guns, the rest of the nation tends to follow.
But since the Republican Legislature passed gun control last year, the gun control crowd has ramped-up their efforts to take over the state.
Shortly after the tragedy in Parkland, donors and activists teamed up to form a political committee called “Ban Assault Weapons Now,” or BAWN.
According to their website, BAWN’s mission is to “place an amendment on the 2020 ballot in Florida to do what our elected leaders refuse to: Ban Assault Weapons NOW.”
What Would the Initiative Do?
If BAWN is successful in passing this initiative, the Florida Constitution would be amended to define “assault weapons,” ban the possession of those weapons, require the registration of those grandfathered, and impose penalties on anyone who does not comply.
The initiative defines an “Assault Weapon” as “any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than ten (10) rounds of ammunition at once, either in a fixed or detachable magazine or any other ammunition-feeding device.”
As just about any gun enthusiast will no doubt realize, this is a very broad definition that encompasses not only the AR-15 and AK-47, but also includes the .22 caliber Marlin Model 60 and hunting shotguns like the Benelli Super Black Eagle 3.
This isn’t just about the “scary” black rifles anymore. This is about nearly every single semi-auto rifle and shotgun on the market.
If a gun owner has one of these firearms, he or she will be required to register that firearm with the state.
If anyone fails to register his or her firearm or comes into possession of any firearm that falls under this broad definition, that person will be charged with a third-degree felony.
To read the full text of the amendment, go to: https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/InitiativeForms/Fulltext/Fulltext_1901_EN.pdf
How Does the Process Work?
The ballot initiative process in Florida requires that a political committee must collect signatures from at least eight percent of the previous presidential election, which means that BAWN must collect at least 766,200 signatures from registered voters.
But before the initiative can be placed on the ballot, it must be reviewed by the State’s Supreme Court, and there is a signature requirement for that as well.
BAWN must collect at least 10 percent of the total number of signatures required - or 766,200 - for the initiative to be reviewed by the court.
According to the state elections website, BAWN has collected 98,595 valid signatures and the initiative was sent to the Supreme Court for review on July 29.
Can Pro-Gun Floridians Stop Them?
It may seem difficult to stop a ballot initiative like this when supporters have already raised more than one million dollars, but it is not impossible.
In fact, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody recently submitted a document to the State Supreme Court in opposition to the amendment arguing that the ballot language is “ambiguous” and does not comply with state law regarding ballot initiatives.
The Attorney General’s office argues that the initiative is drafted in such a way that it would mislead voters by not informing them that the language would ban “the possession of virtually every semi-automatic long-gun.”
The Florida Supreme Court can now issue an opinion on the whether or not the initiative is in compliance with the law.
To see AG Moody’s arguments against the ballot initiative, see this document: https://efactssc-public.flcourts.org/casedocuments/2019/1266/2019-1266_petition_73775_request2dadvisory20opinion2028atty20gen29.pdf
If the Supreme Court declares that the ballot language is legal, gun owners still have a chance.
BAWN still must gather over 600,000 more signatures before February 1, 2020.
If they succeed, the last opportunity to stop this gun grab from becoming law will be at the ballot box on November 3, 2020.
Gun owners must mobilize en masse to oppose this gun control or be forced to face the consequences for potentially decades to come.
D.J. Parten is executive director of Florida Gun Rights.