Carlton: If lawmakers won't do their job, Floridians might just clutter up the state Constitution with an assault weapons ban

Florida voters might get to bypass do-nothing lawmakers with a ban on the kind of assault weapons used in mass shootings in Orlando and Parkland.
Dordon Brack aims a semi-automatic AR-15. An AR-15 was used in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images) 775125318
Dordon Brack aims a semi-automatic AR-15. An AR-15 was used in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images) 775125318
Published November 28
Updated November 28

Here is something instructive we learned about Florida, and Floridians, in this last election:

Given the chance, folks around here are willing to tack a few things on to the state Constitution all by themselves.

Especially when their elected officials in Tallahassee can't manage to get the job done for them.

Florida voters passed nearly all of the 12 proposed amendments that were on a very long ballot, accomplishing a litany of changes ranging from ending greyhound racing to restoring voting rights to felons.

Legislators may lollygag, but we the people took care of business.

Which makes a proposal to put a ban on possessing "assault" weapons on the 2020 Florida ballot for voters to consider pretty interesting.

Think about it: This could be a neat sidestep of Florida's dubious, longstanding tradition of elected officials cowed and controlled by the powerful National Rifle Association and all too eager to do the NRA's bidding on gun laws.

Instead, if enough citizens signed petitions agreeing it should be there, the people would get to decide.

The stories of terror and loss keep playing out on the news: Another town, another mass shooting.

They were just going to the movies, to a nightclub, to a music festival. They were school children and churchgoers. Here it hit home in Parkland and Orlando.

A Quinnipiac poll weeks after the high school shooting in Parkland in February found 62 percent of Florida voters favored a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons. So it appears a lot of us do not see the need for assault weapons — defined in the proposed ban as semiautomatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once — for the public.

And logically, doesn't that have to include some portion of people who believe strongly in the Second Amendment?

Count on the NRA to tell gun owners this push is only the insidious beginning of government coming to take away every weapon you own. But by now, isn't it clear that too many Americans hold the right to responsibly own guns dear for that to happen?

So maybe we're too smart to buy it.

Before the recent election, it is interesting to note, the NRA (and others) contended that language in banning the stale, sad practice of racing greyhounds could ultimately lead to the end of your fishing and hunting rights in Florida, which would be one slippery slope.

Clearly, voters were not swayed enough to take that leap.

Also interesting: A certain Florida politician who once declared himself a "proud NRA sellout" and ran for governor was by the end of the race pretty much: Adam who?

Not that anyone should for a second underestimate the considerable muscle of the NRA. Collecting the hundreds of thousands of valid voter signatures required to get this on the ballot will be no easy task for Ban Assault Weapons Now, a committee out of Miami.

The group will have to convince citizens this isn't about disarming law-abiding gun owners but ending access to weapons of war. (And by the way, people who owned assault weapons before the ban passed would be exempt, though their guns would have to be registered.)

Some object to the practice of potentially cluttering up the state Constitution with too many amendments. But voters may decide this is an issue big enough to be less clutter than clarity.

And remember, if Floridians don't want it, it won't pass.

But it won't be a beholden Legislature making the call.

Contact Sue Carlton at [email protected]

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