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  1. Opinion

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody shows her true colors on guns

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody answers reporters questions during the 2019 legislative session. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody answers reporters questions during the 2019 legislative session. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Aug. 6

So State Attorney General Ashley Moody is taking a stand against letting Floridians decide if they want to ban assault weapons.

Moody officially did this two days before the mass shooting at a California food festival by a gunman who legally bought his assault weapon in another state. And she is sticking to her guns, so to speak, even after last weekend's separate and horrifying massacres at a busy Walmart in El Paso and an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio that left more than 30 dead at the hands of mad men armed with military-style assault rifles.

Okay, so maybe the sheer number of these tragedies makes a person a little numb to the grim absurdity of her timing.

Moody is recommending that the Florida Supreme Court reject a proposed constitutional amendment to ban the sale of assault weapons. Then she doubled-down, calling the amendment "deceitful and misleading" and saying it would ban the sale of antique rifles like one her grandfather had decades ago. She said it would ban virtually every self-loading long gun, "including those that in no shape of the imagination would one think would be described as an assault weapon."

In fact, the amendment, which supporters hope to get on the 2020 ballot and which does not apply to handguns, would prohibit the sale of "semiautomatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in fixed or detachable magazine." People who own these already would have to register them.

And, seriously. Does anyone including the attorney general believe this effort — led by a woman whose nephew was murdered in a mass shooting at his high school — is about anything more than keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of those intent on carnage? Or doing something to stop this insanity?

Ben Pollara, a political consultant working with Ban Assault Weapons NOW said this: "If someone wants to give their 9- or 10-year-old grandkid a semiautomatic rifle capable of taking a high-capacity magazine, they will be out of luck. But unless grandpa needs to unload ten bullets into a deer when he's out hunting, his 60-year-old rifle is probably totally legal under this amendment."

But what a handy catchphrase to titillate the National Rifle Association: Now they're coming for Grandpa's guns!

Moody also plans to fight to keep ridiculous penalties — thousands in fines and removal from office — for local officials who dare pass gun rules in their communities, like banning them from government buildings. She would have opposed raising the gun purchase age to 21.

Why am I surprised? Maybe because at 31, Moody became a Hillsborough judge — the youngest in Florida, to the consternation of some. But then she established a reputation as hardworking and thoughtful. She's a Republican with conservative stances, but she has said she hopes Floridians will see her decisions are based on the law, not politics.

And also not — you would hope — based on toeing the party line on a topic with which citizens have finally had enough.

Even as the latest dead are buried, you did not hear Moody suggest how to fix that amendment language to her lawyerly satisfaction for real change. Disappointing doesn't begin to cover it.

Contact Sue Carlton at scarlton@tampabay.com.

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