Florida AG Attempts to Block ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban From Ballot

'Voters will not be able to understand the true meaning and ramifications of the proposed amendment'

Florida attorney general Ashley Moody / Getty Images
August 1, 2019

In a letter sent Friday, Florida's attorney general asked the state's supreme court to block a proposed ban on so-called "assault weapons" because she believes it is misleading and unclear.

Ashley Moody (R.) said the measure would have a wider impact than suggested by the title and summary activists hope to present to voters in 2020. In her letter to the court, she said the proposed language of the ballot issue would ban far more firearms than the summary implies.

"The ballot title and summary do not inform Florida's electorate that, by defining 'assault weapons' as 'any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than ten (10) rounds of ammunition . . . in a fixed or detachable magazine,' the amendment would ban the possession of virtually every semi-automatic long-gun," Moody said in the letter. "To be included on the ballot, the sprawling practical effect of the amendment must be revealed in the ballot language. Because that effect is not revealed, the ballot language is deficient."

She further complained the proposed ballot language does not mention that owners of semi-automatic firearms would have to register with the state or face felony charges.

"The ballot title and summary do not inform Florida's electorate that virtually every lawful owner of a semi-automatic long-gun will be forced to register with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, or that this registry would be available to all local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies," she said. "Nor do the ballot title and summary state the time within which preexisting long-gun owners must register their firearms that meet the proposed amendment's definition of 'assault weapon' and avail themselves of the amendment's grandfathering provision."

Activists behind the proposed ban insist their description of the ban is not misleading. Gail Schwartz, chairman of the Ban Assault Weapons NOW committee, said the group believed its proposal would pass scrutiny by the Supreme Court.

"This bipartisan ballot measure has been vetted extensively by legal experts and is supported by hundreds of thousands of Floridians across the state," Schwartz said in a statement to the Tallahassee Democrat. "We are confident with our chances at the Supreme Court, and presented with the choice to do so, we are confident that the people of Florida will overwhelmingly support this common-sense measure to ban weapons of war to make our communities safer."

Even if the proposed ban does survive scrutiny from the state supreme court, it still faces a steep climb to be included on the 2020 ballot. The activists have gathered 91,211 signatures thus far but need a total of 766,200 to be included on the ballot, according to Moody's letter.