On June 4, the Florida Supreme Court declared [https://www.floridasupremecourt.org/content/download/637052/7237090/file/sc19-1266.pdf] an effort to ban commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms through a ballot measure invalid, describing the proposal as “misleading” and a violation of state law.
Anti-gun group Ban Assault Weapons Now (BAWN), a project of several gun control groups including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and David Hogg’s March For Our Lives, had attempted to place the gun ban on the ballot in 2020, but failed to obtain the required signatures. Having secured roughly 175,000 signatures, in recent months the group’s goals shifted to placing the measure on the 2022 ballot. With the Supreme Court’s decision, gun control advocates will have to start the ballot measure procedure over from scratch if they intend to continue this attack on Floridians’ Second Amendment rights.
The measure would have amended the Florida Constitution to prohibit the possession of an “assault weapon,” defined as “any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than ten (10) rounds of ammunition at once, either in a fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition-feeding device.” The summary stated that the proposed semi-automatic ban, “Exempts and requires registration of assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to this provision’s effective date.” In truth, the actual language of the proposal did not exempt these firearms, only a current owner’s continued possession of their guns. Under the proposal, such firearms could not be lawfully transferred, and therefore would have eventually become contraband.
FL ST § 101.161(1) requires that “Whenever a constitutional amendment or other public measure is submitted to the vote of the people, a ballot summary of such amendment or other public measure shall be printed in clear and unambiguous language on the ballot …” In their opinion, the Supreme Court determined that “the ballot summary affirmatively misleads voters regarding the exemption ” and that the “misleading language violates section 101.161(1) ….”
The Supreme Court went on to explain,
The ballot summary informs voters that registered assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to the Initiative’s effective date are exempt from the scope of the Initiative altogether, which misleads voters to believe that any lawfully possessed assault weapons will continue to remain lawful. However, the Initiative contemplates the eventual criminalization of the possession of assault weapons, even if the assault weapon itself was lawfully possessed and registered prior to the Initiative’s effective date.
The Supreme Court’s decision to protect Florida voters from a misleading ballot measure is a monumental victory for NRA, its members, and law-abiding gun owners throughout the Sunshine State. However, faced with well-financed opponents intent on undermining the Second Amendment, Florida gun rights supporters must remain vigilant in the continued fight for our firearms freedom.