The Florida Supreme Court has thrown out a ballot initiative that would have enshrined in the state constitution a ban on some kinds of semi-automatic firearms.
In a 4-1 decision, the court ruled that the initiative was defective because the summary of the amendment used unclear language that contradicted the text of the amendment.
The summary indicated that weapons possessed prior to the initiative would be exempt from the ban, which would have allowed those firearms to be transferred to another person. The actual text of the amendment, however, only allowed the owner of the weapon to be exempt.
“While the ballot summary purports to exempt registered assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to the initiative’s effective date, the initiative does not categorically exempt the assault weapon, only the current owner’s possession of that assault weapon,” the majority wrote. “The ballot summary is therefore affirmatively misleading.”The ballot initiative was written and promoted by a group called Ban Assault Weapons Now (BAWN). They’re seeking to garner the 766,200 petition signatures necessary to get their “assault weapons” ban on the list of measures voters can consider for ratification in the state constitution.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody stood her ground on Monday when asked whether in the wake of the weekend’s mass murders, she’d reconsidered her opposition to a constitutional amendment banning “assault weapons” that could appear before voters on the 2020 ballot.
Calling the proposal “far-reaching” and “misleading,” she explained that the ban’s language would go far beyond the guns commonly used in mass murders to include firearms like those her grandfather gave her father and his brother 60 years ago.
“The way that they have phrased this language, it would ban virtually every firearm, including those that in no shape of the imagination would one think would be described as an assault weapon,” she said during a press conference about a different topic.
But Politico reported last week that the group has only garnered about 175,000 signatures, a 75,000 increase since GunsAmerica reported in June of last year that BAWN had broken the 100,000 mark. At 75,000 signatures per year, it will take the group more than a decade to reach the necessary threshold. That isn’t stopping the group from continuing its push.
“The Supreme Court, now controlled by the NRA in the same way as our Governor and our Legislature, has fundamentally failed the people of Florida,” BAWN Chair Gail Schwartz said in a statement. “Not only has the Legislature recently made it harder to pass ballot initiatives, now the people must also face a court of rightwing ideologues who will only approve initiatives they agree with politically.”
“The Supreme Court’s rejection of BAWN’s amendment does not change our commitment to rid Florida of these killing machines,” Schwartz said. “After striving for two years for a safer state for our families, we’re just getting started.”
Schwartz is the aunt of one of the victims of the Parkland massacre. The group also lists David Hogg as its “Chief Organizing Coordinator.”
Gun rights groups applauded the ruling, including the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which submitted a brief opposing the ban.
“On behalf of our industry members in Florida we are thankful the Florida Supreme Court rejected the Mayor Bloomberg-funded deceptive and misleading effort ballot initiative to ban state-wide the lawful sale of virtually all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns in the state to law abiding Floridians after of background check,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel. Our appreciation to GunsAmerica and Jordan Michaels for this article.