Assault weapons ban misses deadline for Florida’s 2020 ballot

It failed to get enough signatures. Organizers say they’re now focusing on the 2022 election.
CHRIS URSO | Times AR-15 style guns are displayed at the In Guns We Trust LLC booth during the Tampa Gun Show Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 at the State Fairgrounds. The show will continue Sunday. [ URSO, CHRIS | Tampa Bay Times ]
Updated Feb 1, 2020

Florida voters won’t get a chance to vote this fall on a proposed constitutional amendment to ban assault weapons after the initiative failed to get enough signatures.

Instead, the organizers behind Ban Assault Weapons Now say they’ll focus on getting the amendment on the ballot in 2022.

Chairwoman Gail Schwartz said in a statement that they’ll continue gathering signatures “despite the best efforts of the NRA and politicians in Tallahassee.”

“Hundreds of thousands of Floridians from all across the state are behind this critical movement and it’s up to us to make sure we succeed where our so-called ‘leaders’ have repeatedly failed,” Schwartz said.


Schwartz’s nephew, Alex Schachter, was killed by a former classmate wielding an assault rifle in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School In Parkland.

RELATED: ‘Deceitful and misleading’: Florida’s attorney general slams assault weapons ban proposal after mass shootings

To make it on the November ballot, organizers had to gather 766,200 verified signatures by today. The organizers fell well short with just 147,304, according to the Secretary of State.

The amendment would ban the sale of “semiautomatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition-feeding device.”

Current owners of assault rifles would have to register them with the state within a year and would not be allowed to sell them.

But it was met with stiff resistance by the National Rifle Association and Attorney General Ashley Moody, who said the amendment was “deceitful and misleading.”

She said last year that the amendment was too broad and would have made illegal many weapons that some people would not consider an “assault weapon.”

RELATED: A lifelong NRA member calls Ashley Moody’s resistance to assault weapons ban ‘nonsense’

“It is so far-reaching and misleading, it would also include guns like the gun my grandfather gave my father and his brother when they were 9 and 10, 60 years ago,” she said in August.


The language in the amendment was crafted with the help of a lifelong NRA member, who told the Times/Herald last year that Moody’s interpretation was “complete nonsense.”

Although it won’t be on the ballot this fall, lawyers for the amendment still plan on arguing the case before the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday. The justices have to approve amendments before they go on the ballot. Moody’s office is expected to argue the amendment is too broad and vague to go before voters.

Voters this fall also won’t get to vote on an amendment that would allow recreational use of marijuana, which also failed to get enough signatures.

The two proposed amendments that have been approved would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and change the wording of the constitution regarding the citizenship of voters.

Information from News Service of Florida contributed to this story.

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