After praising Senate President Bill Galvano for authorizing a review to “better understand the various factors involved in mass shootings,” including “white nationalism,” Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, pre-filed a 2020 bill seeking to ban three types of semi-automatic firearms.
The bill is the fourth filed in four years by Stewart proposing to prohibit specific semi-automatic so-called “assault weapons” and restrict magazine capacities.
“The weekend tragedies in El Paso and Dayton served as a horrific reminder of the massive damage these weapons of war can inflict in just seconds,” Stewart said in a statement, noting after the 2016 slaughter of 49 people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando and the 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting that killed 17, her bill may actually get a committee hearing this time around.
“Mental health may play a role in setting the stage for these killings. But it is the gun itself and the firing of that weapon that leads to the carnage,” she said. “We owe it to the survivors, and to the people of Florida who overwhelmingly have supported such a ban, to outlaw these weapons once and for all.”
Unlike previous measures seeking to ban virtually all semi-autos under the definition of “assault weapon,” such as a 2019 bill by Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, Stewart’s 2020 legislation will seek to prohibit the sale of three specific groups of weapons -- Sig Sauer, AR-15 and AK-47 rifles.
“For years, I have fought to ban the purchase, sale, and transfer of assault weapons in Florida and with each failure of the Legislature to take effective action on these weapons, countless lives have been lost in senseless tragedies,” Stewart said.
The proposed “assault weapons” ban is not the only gun control bill pre-filed for the 2020 session, which begins Jan. 14.
Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, has filed Senate Bill 94, which would require all transfers of firearms to be conducted through a federally licensed dealer -- even between private owners -- to ensure those engaged in the transaction undergo a federal background check.
Nor is Stewart’s bill the only effort under way to ban “assault weapons” in Florida.
The Ban Assault Weapons Now (BAWN) petition drive would widen the definition of “assault weapon” to include any semi-automatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, using a fixed or detachable magazine or an ammunition-feeding device.
As of Tuesday, Miami-based BAWN had filed 100,389 verified voter signatures and reported $1 million in contributions since launching its campaign in March 2018, according to the state Division of Elections (DOE).
To get on the November 2020 ballot, proposed constitutional amendments must present 766,200 verified voter signatures to the DOE by Feb. 1, 2020.
The state, however, has asked the Florida Supreme Court not to permit the measure to be placed on the ballot even if it gets enough signatures to qualify because its language is “clearly and conclusively defective.”
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody on July 26 filed a petition with the Supreme Court to block the measure from appearing on the ballot.
Moody contends justices should rule the proposal “misleading” because it does not adequately spell out its ramifications on gun ownership.
The measure’s six-word title and five-sentence summary fails to disclose the proposed constitutional amendment’s “true nature,” Moody maintains, arguing it would outlaw the possession of virtually every semi-automatic, long-barreled firearm, including shotguns and rifles, as “assault weapons.”
In the petition, Moody repeatedly cites the measure’s alleged vagaries, claiming “voters will not be able to understand the true meaning and ramifications of the proposed amendment, making the ballot language clearly and conclusively defective.”
John Haughey is the Florida contributor to The Center Square.