Let Floridians vote on assault weapons ban | Paula Dockery

The Florida Legislature makes it hard to get citizens initiatives on the ballot. The attorney general argues against the wording. Let the voters decide.
Paula Dockery of Lakeland is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years.  Courtesy of Paula Dockery.
Paula Dockery of Lakeland is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years. Courtesy of Paula Dockery.
Published August 14

Elected officials in Florida have a history of working against citizen efforts to amend the state Constitution. We’ve sadly become accustomed to the various methods they use to sabotage Floridians’ grassroots efforts.

First they ignore their constituents’ calls for certain policies or funding, which leads Floridians to explore the costly and time-consuming effort to undertake a citizens’ initiative.

Then they make it more difficult to get initiatives on the ballot.

If the measure makes it to the ballot, they make it more difficult for it to pass by raising the threshold.

If the measure still passes, they ignore it or repeal it. They drag their feet on implementing it.

And their new favorite tactic is to co-opt or weaken it beyond recognition — class size limits and the restoration of voting rights for felons are prime examples.

To add insult to injury, they shamefully use our tax dollars to battle our wishes by fighting us in court.

Usually the attacks come from the Legislature and the governor. But the latest attack is coming from Attorney General Ashley Moody, who took office in January.

Moody is trying to prevent a citizens’ initiative to ban assault weapons from appearing on the ballot by asking the Florida Supreme Court to disqualify the proposed ballot measure.

Using taxpayer resources, Moody argues the proposal is vague and misleading.

Really? It’s pretty clear.

The ballot summary reads:

Prohibits possession of assault weapons, defined as 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. Possession of handguns is not prohibited. Exempts military and law enforcement personnel in their official duties. Exempts and requires registration of assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to this provision’s effective date. Creates criminal penalties for violations of this amendment.

Moody is a Republican with an A rating from the National Rifle Association and is making her argument before an extremely conservative Florida Supreme Court following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ three recent appointments to the court.

Her challenge comes even though two of the worst mass shootings occurred in Florida using these types of weapons: The Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, where 49 people were killed and 53 were injured; and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 were killed and 17 others injured.

It also comes as three devastating mass shootings took place elsewhere in the country: The Gilroy Garlic Festival in California; a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas; and a popular bar in Dayton, Ohio.

These shootings can happen anywhere and anytime. More Americans fear for their lives and are calling for action.

In a June 2019 Quinnipiac poll taken before the latest shootings, 59 percent of Floridians supported a ban on the sale of assault weapons with only 36 percent opposing one. Women support the ban 72 percent to 24 percent.

Banning assault weapons won’t stop all mass shootings, but it would limit the killer’s ability to fire off hundreds of rounds in a very short period of time. The shooter in Dayton killed 10 and injured 14 others in 32 seconds despite law enforcement responding so quickly to take him down.

Do we really expect our law enforcement officers who are first on the scene to rush in with their standard issue police pistols to face an active shooter armed with an assault weapon with high capacity magazines?

Isn’t their job dangerous enough without them being outgunned?

As a gun owner and a Second Amendment supporter, I see no problem with reasonable gun regulation. That’s why I’m proud to join student survivors of the Parkland shooting and parents of victims of both the Parkland and Pulse shootings on the steering committee for BAWN — Ban Assault Weapons Now.

Our mission is simple: to place an amendment on the 2020 ballot in Florida to do what our elected leaders refuse to do: Ban Assault Weapons NOW.

After Sandy Hook, Aurora, Newton, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Pulse, Parkland, Pittsburgh, Charleston, Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton, isn’t it time to get these military style weapons off our streets?

Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland. She is now a registered NPA. PBDockery@gmail.com.