The Florida Supreme Court blocked a voter initiative to ban assault weapons, semiautomatic rifles and shotguns from going to voters in 2022.
The Thursday ruling squashed the Ban Assault Weapons Now sponsored constitutional amendment because of deceptive language and the clause grandfathering weapon ownership to the owner only, not the gun itself.
In a court ruling 4-1, the opinion ruled that voters would be deceived because the initiative wouldn’t have protected the weapon itself, but rather the person who lawfully owned it.
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In other words, people who legally owned a weapon wouldn’t be able to sell it or give it to someone else and it raised suspicions of weapons confiscation programs for the now illegal weapon.
“While the ballot summary purports to exempt registered assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to the Initiative’s effective date, the Initiative does not categorically exempt the assault weapon, only the current owner’s possession of that assault weapon. The ballot summary is therefore affirmatively misleading,” the court wrote in its opinion.
Justice Jorge Labarga disagreed with the majority, and said the 75-word limit on the ballot summary can’t provide every detail of the entire initiative. But he said the language was clear.
“The ballot title and summary provide fair notice and equip voters to educate themselves about the details of the Initiative,” Labarga wrote. “Consequently, the Initiative should be placed on the ballot.”
The measure also would have banned the possession of any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition.
Ban Assault Weapons Now is a group inspired by the mass shooting at a Parkland high school that left 17 people dead.
The group is chaired by Gail Schwartz, whose 14-year-old nephew Alex Schachter was killed during the shootings.
“The Supreme Court, now controlled by the NRA in the same way as our Governor and our Legislature, has fundamentally failed the people of Florida,” Schwartz said in a news release. “Not only has the Legislature recently made it harder to pass ballot initiatives, now the people must also face a Court of rightwing ideologues who will only approve initiatives they agree with politically.”
The state had certified about 175,000 of the more than 766,000 voter signatures needed to place the proposal on the ballot.
The ruling nullifies the petitions’ language, making them invalid, so the group can’t simply modify the ballot summary – they must start over.
Attorney General Ashley Moody opposed the ballot initiative, as did the National Rifle Association, which hired a legal team to fight it.
“We are pleased with the Court’s ruling. It is extraordinarily important that when a voter steps into the voting booth, they know what they are voting on,” said Moody spokeswoman Lauren Cassedy.
The group that launched the initiative raised about $2 million in the effort to get it on the 2022 ballot, including more than 300 donations from Parkland residents.
The group Americans for Gun Safety Now contributed at least $260,000 to the effort, but a spokeswoman said it had no comment because it wasn’t involved in the legal proceedings.
Some key text of the proposal via Ballotpedia:
The measure would ban possession of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. Semiautomatic would be defined by the measure as “any weapon which fires a single projectile or a number of ball shots through a rifled or smooth bore for each single function of the trigger without further manual action required.” Assault weapon would be defined by the measure 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 definition of assault weapon would exclude handguns under the measure.
If a person lawfully owned an assault weapon before the measure’s effective date, their ownership of such weapon would still be legal (a) for one year after the measure’s effective date or (b) after the owner registers the weapon by make, model, and serial number with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Records of such registration would be available for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies but otherwise would remain confidential.
Violating the provisions of the measure would be a third-degree felony under the measure. The effective date of the measure was designed to be 30 days after the measure is approved, if it is approved by voters.
The proposed ballot summary is as follows:
|“||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.||”|
Schwartz’s grief seems to have addled her brain. Ninety-five percent of the nation’s arms owners are not NRA members. Dues and contributions to the NRA-ILA help fund litigation against those who would violate or repeal the 2nd Amendment.