State voters could be asked to ban assault weapons in Florida if the state’s Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) agrees to put a proposed amendment on the November ballot. It’s the idea of former Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith who is currently a member of the CRC.
The commission is made up of 37 members appointed by the Governor, Attorney General, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, Senate President and House Speaker. It meets once every 20 years to consider amendments to the Florida Constitution and decides which of those amendments to put before voters.
Efforts by legislative Democrats to enact an assault gun ban as part of the school safety legislation passed last week were defeated in both the House and Senate. So Smith wants to give Floridians a chance to decide whether a ban on “weapons of war” should be made part of the constitution.
“Since the 2016 horrific shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and especially after the Valentine’s Day tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School, Floridians have signaled their support for an assault weapons ban,” said Smith. “Since the Legislature did not act, I wanted to give the people the power to decide for themselves.”
A couple of weeks ago, a Quinnipiac University survey of Florida voters conducted after the school shootings in Parkland, showed a majority of them supported a nationwide ban on semiautomatic assault style weapons, but the margin depends on how the question is asked. When asked if they support a ban on “assault weapons, Florida voters support a ban by 62 percent to 33 percent. In a separate question with different wording, 53 percent support a nationwide ban of all “semiautomatic rifles,” while 42 percent oppose such a ban.
Smith’s amendment defines an “assault weapon” as a “semiautomatic rifle that is able to accept a detachable magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device that is capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition, or that has a fixed magazine capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition.”
Under his proposed amendment, the sale or transfer of such weapons would be prohibited. The Legislature would have the authority to enact legislation providing exceptions to the prohibition on the transfer of assault weapons that were legally obtained prior to the ban taking effect.
Smith’s proposed amendment must still go through the CRC selection process and receive the votes of 22 CRC members in order to be placed on the November ballot. If it does, the amendment would have to be approved by at least 60 percent of the voters to be adopted.