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DeSantis Administration Argues to Block "Assault Weapon Ban" 2020 Constitutional Amendment 

Assualt Rifle

TALLAHASSEE –  The DeSantis administration wants the state’s Supreme Court to disqualify a proposed constitutional amendment banning “assault weapons” from being presented to voters on the November 2020 ballot.

The proposal’s language is “clearly and conclusively defective,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody argued in the state’s petition to block the measure from being on the ballot.

The Ban Assault Weapons Now (BAWN) petition drive would widen the definition of “assault weapon” to include any semi-automatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, using a fixed or detachable magazine or an ammunition-feeding device.

As of July 30, Miami-based BAWN had filed 98,429 verified voter signatures and reported $1 million in contributions since launching its campaign in March 2018, according to the state’s Division of Elections (DOE).

To get on the November 2020 ballot, proposed constitutional amendments must present 766,200 verified voter signatures to the DOE by Feb. 1, 2020.

Attorney General: the  proposal is "misleading"

In the state’s petition to the Supreme Court, Moody contends justices should rule the proposal “misleading” because it does not adequately spell out its ramifications on gun ownership.

The measure’s six-word title and five-sentence summary fails to disclose the proposed constitutional amendment’s “true nature,” Moody maintains, arguing it would outlaw the possession of virtually every semi-automatic long-barreled firearm, including shotguns and rifles, as “assault weapons.”

In the state’s petition, Moody repeatedly cites the measure’s vagaries, claiming “voters will not be able to understand the true meaning and ramifications of the proposed amendment, making the ballot language clearly and conclusively defective.”

It is uncertain when the Supreme Court might hear arguments on the wording of the proposal. The state constitution requires the Supreme Court to review proposed language before allowing it onto the ballot.

Moody said the law’s “grandfathering provision” essentially creates a gun registration, which is unconstitutional, for people who had the now-banned weapons before the amendment went into effect.

Those people, in part, would be able to retain possession if they register with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), she noted.

In documents filed with the Supreme Court, Moody contended the ballot title and summary do not adequately explain issues related to grandfathering.

“Moreover, the ballot title and summary do not inform Florida's electorate that virtually every lawful owner of a semi-automatic long-gun will be forced to register with the FDLE, or that this registry would be available to all local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies,” Moody wrote. “Nor do the ballot title and summary state the time within which preexisting long-gun owners must register their firearms that meet the proposed amendment's definition of ‘assault weapon’ and avail themselves of the amendment's grandfathering provision.”

BAWN’s petition drive is one of 26 “active” sanctioned petition drives listed on the DOE’s website.

Attorney General Office Spokesperson Lauren Schenone said the proposed amendment’s vagaries are purposeful attempts to fool voters.

"Trick Language?"

“Regardless of your position on gun restrictions, this proposed ballot language is a trick,” Schenone said in a Monday statement. “The drafters of this proposal have confused voters by creating a misleading definition of ‘assault weapons’ which would include a majority of the most popular hunting rifles and shotguns.”

Ban Assault Weapons NOW Chair Gail Schwartz, whose nephew was killed in the Valentine’s Day 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, disputed Moody’s and Schenone’s contentions in an ensuing statement.

"Ballot Measure Has Been Vetted"

“This bipartisan ballot measure has been vetted extensively by legal experts and is supported by hundreds of thousands of Floridians across the state,” Schwartz said.

In its Monday statement, Ban Assault Weapons accused Moody of “playing politics” to appease the gun lobby.

“We are confident with our chances at the Supreme Court, and presented with the choice to do so, we are confident that the people of Florida will overwhelmingly support this common-sense measure to ban weapons of war to make our communities safer,” Schwartz said.

This piece appeared in the The Center Square and was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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