The Florida Constitution Revision Commission is scheduled to hold its final public hearing Tuesday afternoon in St. Petersburg and members are expected to hear from the public regarding two gun control measures that have been proposed to the commission in recent days in response to the Parkland school shootings nearly four weeks ago.
Among those expected to appear before the commission on Tuesday are students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where the shootings took place on Valentine’s Day killing 17 students and teachers.
One of the amendments, filed Monday by CRC member and former Democratic state Sen. Chris Smith, would place a ban the sale of assault-style weapons, as well as high-capacity magazines, in the Florida Constitution.
The other proposal, which was filed Friday by Miami attorney Roberto Martinez, would put into the constitution the gun control limits passed by the Legislature as part of a school safety package and signed into law last week by Gov. Rick Scott. Those restrictions include raising the minimum age for the purchase of a firearm to 21, imposing a three-day waiting period on gun purchases and banning the sale of bump stocks.
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.
Smith filed his amendment after legislative Democrats failed in their efforts to include a ban on assault weapons in the school safety measure.
“Since the Legislature did not act, I wanted to give the people the power to decide for themselves,” Smith said Monday.
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.”
Martinez’s proposal is aimed at protecting the new school safety law from legal challenges by placing the gun restrictions contained in the law into the state constitution. The National Rifle Association has already filed a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of the portion of the law that raises the minimum age for gun purchases to 21.
Both proposals face an uphill battle in order to make it on the November ballot for voters to decide. Twenty-two members of the commission, most appointed by Republicans, would have to sign-off on the proposed amendments in order to be placed on the ballot. If they do, the amendments would need approval of 60 percent of the voters in order to pass.
Recent polls indicate there could be enough voter support for a ban on assault weapons, providing it gets placed on the ballot.