Opinion by Marion P. Hammer
USF Executive Director
NRA Past President
FL. Attorney General Moody: Assault Weapons Ban Ballot Measure “MISLEADING”
Florida – -(AmmoLand.com)- In the petition filed Friday, July 26th, Attorney General Ashley Moody informed the Florida Supreme Court that the “Assault Weapons Ban” ballot language is “misleading” and is “clearly and conclusively defective.”
Further, AG Moody’s spokesperson Lauren Schenone told the media, “Regardless of your position on gun restrictions, this proposed ballot language is a trick.”
She added, “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.”
The AG’s petition opposes placement of the amendment on the ballot.The petition identifies the following four deficiencies in the ballot title and summary as being misleading to voters:
- (1) the definition of “assault weapon” captures virtually all semi-automatic long-guns, but this practical impact is not revealed to the voters in the ballot summary;
- (2) the amendment forces nearly all lawful owners to register with FDLE, and establishes a gun registration scheme that will make the personal identifying information of gun owners available to all other state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies;
- (3) the ballot summary fails to disclose the 30-day window after passage during which individuals can purchase weapons and take advantage of the grandfathering provision; and
- (4) the amendment grants the legislature plenary authority to increase, but never decrease, the criminal penalty set forth in the amendment, which is a third-degree felony.
The news article below reports more on the issue and contains a link to the AG’s full petition. It is reprinted with permission.
The News Service of Florida
July 29, 2019
Jim Saunders, Dara Kam
TALLAHASSEE — Arguing the proposed ballot language is “clearly and conclusively defective,” Attorney General Ashley Moody wants the Florida Supreme Court to block a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to prevent possession of assault weapons.
Moody late Friday filed a document that is a first step in arguing before the Supreme Court, which reviews the wording of ballot proposals to make sure they are not misleading and meet other legal standards. The political committee Ban Assault Weapons NOW is trying to get the assault-weapons measure on the November 2020 ballot.
In part, Moody focused on a section of the proposed constitutional amendment that would define assault weapons 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.”
Moody wrote that the proposed amendment would “ban the possession of virtually every semi-automatic long-gun. To be included on the ballot, the sprawling practical effect of the amendment must be revealed in the ballot language. Because that effect is not revealed, the ballot language is deficient.”
But Gail Schwartz, who chairs the Ban Assault Weapons NOW committee, disputed Moody’s arguments.
“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 a statement Monday. “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.”
The possibility of banning of assault weapons has long been controversial in Florida, but it gained renewed attention last year after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people. State lawmakers have repeatedly rejected calls to ban the weapons, including after the Parkland school shooting.
Ban Assault Weapons NOW needs to clear two major requirements to get the proposal on the 2020 ballot. It needs the Supreme Court to sign off on the wording of the ballot summary and title — the wording that voters see when they go to the polls — and needs to submit at least 766,200 valid petition signatures to the state. As of Monday, the state had received 99,266 valid petition signatures, according to the Florida Division of Elections website.
It was not immediately clear Monday when the Supreme Court might hear arguments on the wording of the proposal.
The amendment would bar possession of assault weapons, though it includes exceptions such as for military or law-enforcement use.
Also, it includes what Moody describes as a “grandfathering provision” for people who had the weapons before the amendment would take effect. Those people, in part, would be able to retain possession if they register with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Registration records would be available to local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies “for valid law enforcement purposes but shall otherwise be confidential,” the text of the proposed amendment says.
In the document filed Friday with the Supreme Court, Moody contended that 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 Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 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.”
But Schwartz, the aunt of Parkland shooting victim Alex Schachter, accused Moody of “playing politics.”
“It’s not surprising that the attorney general is now openly opposing measures to protect families, playing politics with Floridians’ lives in order to appease the gun lobby,” Schwartz said. “Year after year, elected officials like Ashley Moody have done nothing on this issue, as more and more families like my own are forced to reckon with the loss of our loved ones due to military-grade assault weapons at Parkland, at Pulse (nightclub in Orlando), or at the next mass shooting.”