Anti-gun advocates spent a year gathering signatures across the Sunshine State to ban most semi-auto rifles but fell well short of the mark.
The group, Ban Assault Weapons Now, was active throughout 2019 in canvassing from Key West to Pensacola and needed to turn in 766,200 signatures of registered voters to have a shot at making it to this Fall’s general election ballot. In the end, they only gathered 147,304.
The two-page text of the proposed amendment to the Florida state constitution would ban the possession of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 cartridges in any sort of fixed or detachable magazine. Violation of the ban would be a third-degree felony, which in Florida can be punished by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
According to campaign documents with the Florida Division of Election, the Miami-based group raised just over $2 million in contributions last year and spent $1.8 million towards the initiative. Top contributors included at least $210,000 from “Americans for Gun Safety Now” listed to an address at a UPS Store in Jacksonville and $100,000 from financier Selwyn Donald Sussman, the latter the largest single contributor to the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign. Additionally, the group received the support of national gun control organs such as the Brady Campaign.
The ballot campaign paid California-based canvassing agencies BH-AP Petitioning Partners and PCI Consultants to collect petition signatures. The companies have formerly been involved in several successful anti-gun petition efforts such as California’s Prop. 63 ammo ban and the I-594 and I-1491 campaign in Washington.
Opposing the initiative was Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who asked the state Supreme Court for a judicial opinion on the move, as well as the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, who argued the court against the initiative. Oral arguments were heard on the proposed initiative on Tuesday, which could determine how the group proceeds with their efforts to try again for the 2022 ballot.
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