Since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the most extraordinary things keep happening.
A surge of protests forces Florida’s first small steps on gun control in 22 years. Students by the thousands stage walkouts at high schools nationwide to keep gun safety in the public mind. Momentum gathers for a huge demonstration Saturday in Washington to force action from Congress.
And now arises the chance — with long odds, but a chance nonetheless — of getting a proposed amendment onto November’s ballot that would allow Floridians to place a ban on assault-style rifles in the state Constitution. It’s a breathtaking possibility. And it deserves to be put before Florida voters.
On Monday, the state’s Constitution Revision Commission began meeting in Tallahassee to consider which of three dozen potential constitutional amendments to send to voters. Three of those proposals have been written in reaction to the Parkland shooting.
The most sweeping would raise the age of buying firearms to 21, impose a 10-day waiting period and require a "comprehensive" background check before a gun purchase, ban bump stocks, and — most dramatic of all — end the sale and possession of assault-style weapons, as well as detachable magazines with more than nine rounds of ammunition.
It will take 22 votes from the 37 commissioners for an amendment proposal to reach the 2018 general election ballot in November. Their deadline is May 10.
According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, 62 percent of Florida voters support a nationwide ban on the sale of "assault weapons." A Florida Atlantic University poll found a majority of voters of every party affiliation supporting stricter gun laws; 69 percent support a ban on assault rifles.
And a Public Policy Polling survey, commissioned by a coalition of progressive groups, found that 73 percent of Floridians would like the opportunity to vote on a semiautomatic assault weapons ban.
The commissioners should give Floridians that chance. And if they fail, a new political committee called Ban Assault Weapons is laying groundwork for an amendment on the 2020 ballot.
Commissioners can stand up for the people of the state, or they can continue to can carry the water for the closed-minded politicians who put most of them on the panel. The choice should be obvious.