Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody doesn’t want a proposed constitutional amendment to ban possession of assault weapons in Florida to appear on the 2020 election ballot.
Moody outlined her arguments in a filing late Friday afternoon with the Florida Supreme Court. She said the title of the amendment — “prohibits possession of defined assault weapons” — and the summary of the amendment don’t adequately explain what the proposal would actually do.
As a result, Moody argued, “voters will not be able to understand their true meaning and ramifications of the proposed amendment, making the ballot language clearly and conclusively defective.”
In June, leaders of the Ban Assault Weapons Now political committee announced they had collected more than 103,000 signatures from registered voters, the threshold required before the mandatory Supreme Court review of proposed constitutional amendments.
Gail Schwartz, chairwoman of the group, which goes by BAWN, criticized Moody’s position.
“It’s not surprising that the attorney general is now openly opposing measures to protect families, playing politics with Floridians’ lives in order to appease the NRA. Year after year, elected officials like Ashley Moody have done nothing on this issue, as more and more families like my own are forced to reckon with the loss of our loved ones due to military-grade assault weapons at Parkland, at Pulse, or at the next mass shooting,” Schwartz said in a statement.
She is the aunt of Alex Schachter, one of 17 people killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre on Feb. 14, 2018.
In a string of Twitter posts on Monday, state Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, praised Moody and criticized the amendment and its sponsors.
“The initiative is another egregious attempt to criminalize purchase of firearms and create a registry. It’s naivety at best and intellectual fraud at worst. Thankful to have an attorney general who sees it for what it is and is willing to engage,” Grant wrote, adding that proponents are “either ignorant or lying to you.”
The organization’s proposed amendment would prohibit the sale of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition either in a fixed or detachable magazine. It would also force people who legally owned assault-style weapons before a ban goes into effect to register them with the state.
It would not prohibit possession of handguns.
The amendment faces scrutiny from the Florida Supreme Court, which has a conservative majority thanks to appointments made by Gov. Ron DeSantis shortly after he took office in January.
If the Supreme Court approves the language, the organization needs many more signatures — a total of 766,200 statewide by Feb. 1, 2020, gathered from a range of congressional districts across the state. Also this year, the state imposed new restrictions making petition drives more difficult and more expensive.
Moody wrote that “the title and summary should not be submitted to Florida voters because the title and summary fail to inform voters of the chief purpose of the proposed amendment and are misleading.”
Among the issues, she said, are that the title and summary don’t make clear that the amendment would ban “virtually every semi-automatic long gun” or that “virtually every lawful owner of a semi-automatic long-gun will be forced to register” with the state.
Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for Moody, put the attorney general’s position more strongly.
“Regardless of your position on gun restrictions, this proposed ballot language is a trick. The drafters of this proposal have confused voters by creating a misleading definition of ‘assault weapons’ which would include a majority of the most popular hunting rifles and shotguns,” Schenone said via email. “In effect, the amendment would ban future sales and possession of these hunting rifles and shotguns and require the registration of owners who already possess them.”
Staff writer Skyler Swisher contributed to this report.
Anthony Man can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @browardpolitics