Very few things tick me off more than deceptive politics. Here in Florida a prime example of such deception is the ballot proposal for the 2020 general election, Prohibits possession of defined assault weapons . At first glance a pro-regulation person might have their interest piqued. After all the inherently meaningless and intellectually deceiving phrase “assault weapon” tends to elicit strong feelings. Let me state here, again, “assault weapon” is a completely made-up term with no mapping in military or police or policy. Alright, let’s get pass that and see how the ballot summary defines said weapons:
Prohibits possession of assault weapons, defined as semiautomatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition-feeding device. Possession of handguns is not prohibited. Exempts military and law enforcement personnel in their official duties. Exempts and requires registration of assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to this provision’s effective date. Creates criminal penalties for violations of this amendment. (source)
Okay, you don’t have to be a Harvard-educated constitutional law expert to see the big issues and deception here:
- Doesn’t define what a rifle or shotgun is under this law (or is it using BATFE definitions?)
- There is a plethora semi-automatic rifles and shotguns which are not suitable for combat or “assault” and yet these would be banned under this same proposal
- Lawful owners could prosecuted and given charged with criminal charges unless they either destroy their lawfully acquired guns, or otherwise register their guns with the state.
Let’s dig a bit deeper. Let see what this proposal, shall it be allowed to be in the ballot and approved by voters, would change in the Florida constitution:
1) Definitions — a) Assault Weapons — For purposes of this subsection, 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. This subsection does not apply to handguns.
If a person had lawful possession of an assault weapon prior to the effective date of this subsection, the person’s possession of that assault weapon is not unlawful (1) during the first year after the effective date of this subsection, or (2) after the person has registered with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or a successor agency, within one year of the effective date of this subsection, by providing a sworn or attested statement, that the weapon was lawfully in his or her possession prior to the effective date of this subsection and by identifying the weapon by make, model, and serial number.
It’s extremely important here that this text and definition will NOT be available to voters in the ballot. All voters will get to see is the summary and title. We see an effort to define what “Assault Weapons” mean in this context. And much like above we see the problem with the blanket proposal. It’s a deceptive wide net to restrict and outright make illegal virtually all rifles and shotguns.
Couple of additional problems here: such registry does not currently exist. There’s no funding for it, no personnel allocation, etc. If current lawful owners want to remain legal and not face criminal charges they must register their guns with the state, that is no automatic grandfathering.
3) Criminal Penalties — Violation of this subsection is a third-degree felony. The legislature may designate greater, but not lesser, penalties for violations. 4) Self-executing — This provision shall be self-executing except where legislative action is authorized in subsection (3) to designate a more severe penalty for violation of this subsection. No legislative or administrative action may conflict with, diminish or delay the requirements of this subsection.
This is a HUGE red flag, regardless of what the amendment is about: in essence any lawful owner, unless they register their covered weapons, they become third-degree felons and further the legislature cannot choose to lessen these penalties, only make them graver.
It bears repeating most of this information will not be available to voters in the ballot (and yes, this is a huge deal regardless what constitutional amendment is in question).
I’m not completely opposed to saner gun ownership. I would support deeper background checks and go as far as mandatory 3-day wait period, which cannot be circumvented via concealed carry permit. But I do completely oppose this proposed ballot measure on several accounts
- Egregiously wide net — it will criminalize virtually all semi-automatic long guns
- Current owners would be (at least) third-degree felons unless they register their weapons with the state in a non-existent registry
- Purposely deceptive language and hiding or critical information in the title and summary
The ballot proposal as of now has only about 1/6 of the required signatures to even make it into the ballot and only about 5 months to get the rest. The ballot is also under legal fire for the exact same reasons I mentioned above. Florida General Attorney Ahsley Moody told in her letter to the Florida Supreme Court
Additionally, the Office of the Attorney General requests the opportunity to present argument in opposition to placement of this proposed amendment on the ballot. The proposed amendment’s title and summary are not clear and unambiguous and do not comply with the requirements of section 101.161(1), Florida Statutes. Indeed, 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 affirmatively misleading.
If you live in Florida and believe in sensible gun regulation and strongly against deceptive politics, you must not sign this petition and inform people you know about the dangerous facts in this proposed constitutional amendment.