Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody stood her ground on Monday when asked whether in the wake of the weekend’s mass murders she’d reconsidered her opposition to a constitutional amendment banning “assault weapons” that could appear before voters on the 2020 ballot.
Calling the proposal “far-reaching” and “misleading,” she explained that the ban’s language would go far beyond the guns commonly used in mass murders to include firearms like those her grandfather gave her father and his brother 60 years ago.
“The way that they have phrased this language, it would ban virtually every firearm, including those that in no shape of the imagination would one think would be described as an assault weapon,” she said during a press conference about a different topic.
“My job as the attorney general is to pay attention to the words that are used in this ballot language to make sure that it does not hide the ball or mislead voters. This particular amendment would mislead voters into thinking they were banning a specific type of firearms when in reality they were banning virtually every long gun, including those that have been passed down from generation to generation.”
The constitutional amendment proposal is being promoted by an organization called Ban Assault Weapons Now! (BAWN) founded by Gail Schwartz, whose nephew was killed in the Parkland massacre. They’re hoping to get the amendment on the 2020 ballot by garnering the necessary 766,200 signatures before February. The group reported in June that over 100,000 Floridians had signed the petition.
According to the group’s official petition, the amendment would ban “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.”
SEE ALSO: Group Pushing for Florida ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban Hits 100,000 Signatures, Headed for State Supreme Court
As Moody and others have noted, the amendment would ban firearms like the .22-caliber Ruger 10/22, which comes with a 10-round magazine but can also be used with aftermarket 25-round magazines.
The petition exempts “handguns,” though it does not define the distinctions between between rifles and handguns.
It has also been unclear how the registration and grandfather process would function. The petition says that the amendment would “exempt and require registration of assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to this provision’s effective date,” but it does not explain whether those lawfully possessed weapons would be transferrable.
According to Moody, the answer is “no.” Long guns could not be transferred upon a registered owner’s death, precluding parents and grandparents from handing down their firearms to future generations.
BAWN spokesman Ben Pollara insists that the amendment language is sufficiently clear and targets only those firearms used in mass murders like those that have taken place in Parkland and Orlando.
“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,” Pollara said in a statement, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “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.”
“Our intent is not to take anyone’s guns away while also ensuring civilian possession of these military-style weapons doesn’t proliferate any further in this state.”
BAWN’s social media tells a different story. The group’s Facebook page clarifies that their agenda extends far beyond “assault weapons” and includes confiscation along with a ban and gun registration.
“If the fundamental problem is that America has far too many guns, then policies need to cut the number of guns in circulation right now to seriously reduce the number of gun deaths,” the group states. “Background checks and other restrictions on who can buy a gun can’t achieve that in the short term. What America likely needs, then, is something more like Australia’s mandatory buyback program — essentially, a gun confiscation scheme — paired with a serious ban on specific firearms (including, potentially, all semiautomatic weapons).”
As for the petition, the state Supreme Court will ultimately decide if it can appear on the ballot next year.