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Florida attorney general fights proposed assault weapons ban

The proposed constitutional amendment would go before voters in 2020. Attorney General Ashley Moody doesn’t like it.
SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
20 protesters participate in a Die-In on the fourth floor rotunda of the Florida Capitol, 3/6/17. They continue to push for an assault weapons ban. Lawmakers in the Florida House were debating a gun/school safety bill at the time.
SCOTT KEELER | Times 20 protesters participate in a Die-In on the fourth floor rotunda of the Florida Capitol, 3/6/17. They continue to push for an assault weapons ban. Lawmakers in the Florida House were debating a gun/school safety bill at the time.
Published Jul. 29, 2019
Updated Jul. 29, 2019

Attorney General Ashley Moody is fighting a proposed amendment to Florida’s constitution that would ban assault weapons.

In a filing with the Florida Supreme Court on Friday, Moody argued that the proposed amendment is too vague and its effects too vast to be allowed to go before voters in 2020.

“The amendment would ban the possession of virtually every semi-automatic long gun,” Moody wrote to the court.

The proposed constitutional amendment would effectively outlaw the sale of assault rifles in the state. People who currently own an assault rifle would have one year to either give them up or register them with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

It defines “assault rifles” as “any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in a fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition-feeding device.”

The amendment’s language states that it would not apply to handguns.

The amendment has enough signatures to trigger an automatic review before the Florida Supreme Court, which will decide whether the amendment’s language complies with requirements under state law.

If the court approves the language, the proposed amendment would still have a long way to go before making it before voters in 2020. It currently has about 100,000 validated signatures, and needs more than 666,000 to qualify.

Moody’s decision was blasted by Gail Schwartz, chairwoman of the group Ban Assault Weapons Now!, which is leading the amendment effort. Schwartz’s nephew, Alex Schachter, was killed in the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland.

“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 NRA," Schwartz said in a statement. “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, or at the next mass shooting."

But Moody spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said it had nothing to do with politics.

“Regardless of your position on gun restrictions, this proposed ballot language is a trick," Schenone said in a 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.”

Moody’s letter to the court stated why her office will argue against it.

She wrote that the language of the amendment’s summary doesn’t make it clear just how many weapons would be outlawed if it passed. Her summary doesn’t give specific examples, however.

She also wrote that the summary doesn’t make clear that current owners of assault weapons would have to register with the Department of Law Enforcement, and that local, state and federal police would have access to that data. Gun-rights groups have long fought gun registries.

The summary does say that it “exempts and requires registration of assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to this provision’s effective date.”

She also faulted the fact that the summary doesn’t say that it would take effect 30 days after it’s approved by voters.


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