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Florida Supreme Court concludes that language of assault weapons ban is misleading

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

On June 4, the Supreme Court of Florida issued an opinion that the ballot language for the “Prohibits possession of defined assault weapons” initiative is misleading, so the initiative will not appear on the 2020 ballot.

This is the proposed ballot summary: “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.”

The Court found that the second-to-last sentence on exemption was misleading. Specifically, it found that the ballot language implied that the weapons themselves were exempted if they were registered as provided in the amendment. However, the amendment itself states that “the person’s
possession of that assault weapon is not unlawful.”

So the amendment only exempts the weapon as long as it remains in the possession of the person who registered it. The opinion states, “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.”

Justice Labarga dissented, arguing that the opinion had found that the language was accurate but “insufficiently narrow.” He said that ballot summaries are limited in length and are not expected to “explain the complete details of a proposal.”

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The proposal was sponsored by Ban Assault Weapons NOW.

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