Assault Weapons Ban Initiative Gets Closer To 2020 Ballot

Tampa, Fla. (NewsRadio WFLA) – A new ballot initiative to amend Florida’s Constitution to include a ban on assault weapons is inching closer to a required review by the state Supreme Court, clearing the way for supporters to gather enough petitions to place it on the 2020 ballot.

According to the latest numbers by the Florida Division of Elections, the initiative sponsored by the Miami-based group Ban Assault Weapons Now has collected 64,737 petitions, an increase of 20,000 petitions from May.

76,632 petitions are needed to trigger a legal review by the state’s Supreme Court justices.That approval will then allow the initiative to move forward to the next step of gathering 766,200 signatures to put the issue to voters as an amendment in the 2020 election.

Assuming voters approve the amendment, it would ban the possession of specifically defined assault weapons.The bigger question for gun owners is what would happen if you lawfully own an assault weapon before the ban goes into effect? Here’s how it will all work.

WHAT WILL QUALIFY AS AN “ASSAULT WEAPON”?

According to the full text of the ballot initiative on-file with the Division of Elections, the definition will be broken down as follows:

  • A semi-automatic rifle or shotgun holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at one time
  • Ammunition is held in a fixed or detachable magazine or loads with an ammunition-feeding device
  • Handguns are NOT included in this definition.

Defining some of those terms further, “semi-automatic” will mean a weapon that can fire one or multiple rounds with a single trigger pull with no other action by the shooter.

Ammunition-feeding devices would include “any magazine, belt, drum, feed strip or similar device for a firearm.”

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU LEGALLY HAVE AN ASSAULT WEAPON ALREADY?

The simple answer is nothing at first, and no, the police will not be breaking down your front door to forcibly take away assault weapons that you lawfully owned before the new amendment takes effect.

Here’s what would happen.

Within the first year, owners will be required to register their weapon with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, or an agency that may be created to only handle assault weapon registrations.

Information that will be required would include the make, model and serial number of the weapon along with filing an affidavit, stating that you legally possessed the weapon in the time before the law goes into an effect.

Assault weapon owners will need to keep their proof of registration in order to continue possessing these weapons legally.

In addition, any enforcement of the law will have to be guided by the 2nd Amendment and all current or future decisions by the United States Supreme Court.

WHO WILL HAVE ACCESS TO THE REGISTRATION INFORMATION?

According to the initiative only local, state and Federal law enforcement officials will have access to the information for legitimate law enforcement needs.Otherwise the information will remain confidential.

However, like many previous amendments that passed in 2018, this leaves open the door for legislators to add specific restrictions on media access and public records requests.

While claiming the amendment will be “self-executing,” meaning upon being approved by the voters, no further legislation would be necessary, the current version leaves some room for interpretation.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR ILLEGALLY HAVING AN ASSAULT WEAPON?

Possessing an assault weapon under the new law would be a third-degree felony with a maximum prison sentence of five years.

However, the legislature will have to get involved in this respect under Florida’s sentencing guidelines laws.

A sentencing level will have to be assigned to the new law that prosecutors use to determine if a minimum sentence can be as low as probation or jail time or potentially carry a minimum 21 months in prison under state guidelines.

 
PM Tampa Bay with Ryan Gorman

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