U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- In a 4-1 ruling, the Florida Supreme Court handed a stinging defeat to the gun prohibition lobby by declaring a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have banned possession of so-called “assault weapons” did not meet requirements to be placed on the ballot.
It was a victory for the National Rifle Association, Unified Sportsmen of Florida, National Shooting Sports Foundation and other rights groups.
The ballot summary for the “Ban Assault Weapons NOW” initiative, according to the state high court, “is misleading and does not comply with…Florida Statutes. Accordingly, this Initiative cannot be placed on the ballot.”
According to the Orlando Weekly, the measure was also opposed by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. The measure was supported by gun prohibition lobbying groups including the Brady Campaign, plus several cities in South Florida, the newspaper said.
The court majority included Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices Ricky Polston, Alan Lawson and Carlos Muniz. A dissenting opinion was written by Associate Justice Jorge Labarga.
Marion Hammer, a past NRA president and currently executive director of the Unified Sportsmen’s group, said in a prepared statement, “The Florida Supreme Court agreed with our contention that the ballot summary was deceptive and would mislead voters.”
She called it a “great victory for Florida’s law-abiding gun owners.”
“The ballot initiative contained deceptive language to fool Florida voters in an attempt to ban millions of legal, commonly used firearms and shut down legitimate businesses all around Florida,” Hammer said. “Supporters of the gun ban initiative used deceptive language to try to trick voters into supporting their gun ban claiming it would do one thing while knowing it would do much more.”
The majority opinion was not kind to the ballot summary.
“While the ballot summary purports to exempt registered assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to the Initiative’s effective date,” the majority opinion explains, “the Initiative does not categorically exempt the assault weapon, only the current owner’s possession of that assault weapon. The ballot summary is therefore affirmatively misleading.”
One page later, the court notes in its nine-page decision, “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. As the Opponents argue, if an individual registers and attests to lawful possession of an assault weapon, and then lends, gifts, or leaves in a will that assault weapon to a family member or friend, then that family member or friend would be in criminal violation of the Initiative—a felony offense.”
Hammer told AmmoLand News that if the measure had gotten to the ballot and actually passed, it would have essentially banned every semi-auto rifle in the country, including popular rimfire models such as the Ruger 10/22.
According to Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel at NSSF, backers of the initiative now have a certain time period during which they can ask the Florida court to reconsider. Neither he, nor Hammer, expect the court to grant a motion for reconsideration, but in the event that might happen, Thursday’s ruling would be on hold pending the court’s reconsideration.
“On behalf of our industry members in Florida we are thankful the Florida Supreme Court rejected the Mayor Bloomberg-funded deceptive and misleading effort ballot initiative to ban state-wide the lawful sale of virtually all semi-automatic firearms in the state to law abiding Floridians after of background check,” Keane told AmmoLand in an email statement.
Florida is not the first place gun control proponents have pushed initiatives affecting the ownership of semi-autos. Washington State anti-gunners successfully ran Initiative 1639 in 2018, inventing a class of firearms now identified as “semiautomatic assault rifles.” The text of that measure defines such weapons as “any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”
This effectively applies to every self-loading rifle, centerfire or rimfire, that has ever been manufactured. Even Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, during the campaign and after the measure passed, said there is no such firearm as a “semiautomatic assault rifle.” The term, he said, applies to a gun that does not exist.
Provisions of I-1639 are currently being challenged in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Wash., by NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation.
Not surprisingly, after I-1639 passed, many Washington residents were suddenly surprised they couldn’t just walk into a gun store and purchase a modern sporting rifle, or any semi-auto rifle.
There is now a ten-day waiting period, the purchaser must provide proof that he/she has taken a firearms safety course during the previous five years, the guns are registered and sales of semi-auto rifles of any kind to anyone under age 21 are prohibited.
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