Florida Supreme Court blocks activist group’s effort to put gun-control amendment on 2022 ballot

Advocates for gun control suffered a setback in the Florida Supreme Court this week.

According to the Washington Examiner, justices blocked an effort to put an amendment banning certain firearms up to a vote as a 2022 ballot initiative.

The proposed measure was advanced by a group called Ban Assault Weapons Now. The organization has been promoting gun-control legislation since 2018 in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

A confusing exemption

As part of its continued advocacy, the group had been working to shore up support for the 2022 ballot initiative. If approved, it would have banned the possession of any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than 10 rounds.

An exception would have been allowed for individuals who already own such a prohibited weapon and had registered it with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Ban Assault Weapons Now was successful in collecting about 175,000 signatures — roughly one-quarter of the number needed to secure a spot on the ballot. The group had also raised about $2 million for its cause.

That work is now effectively out the window, though, following a 4-1 decision resulting from the conclusion that the amendment’s language is misleading.

Specifically, the majority opinion took exception to the way the exemption clause was worded. The justices believed it suggested that the gun itself would have been protected while in actuality only the owner would be entitled to the exception.

“Affirmatively misleading”

“While the ballot summary purports to exempt registered assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to the Initiative’s effective date, the Initiative does not categorically exempt the assault weapon, only the current owner’s possession of that assault weapon,” the justices wrote. “The ballot summary is therefore affirmatively misleading.”

The lone dissenting justice, Jorge Labarga, expressed his disagreement in a statement arguing that a summary provided alongside the ballot measure would provide “fair notice and equip voters to educate themselves about the details of the initiative.”

Gail Schwarts, the chairwoman of Ban Assault Weapons Now, spoke out against the decision, claiming that the state Supreme Court is “controlled by the NRA” and “will only approve initiatives they agree with politically.”

As the majority found, however, the amendment this group has put forward is needlessly confusing. When it comes to amending a constitutional right, voters deserve to know precisely what it is they are being asked to support.

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