Florida Push to Ban Assault Weapons Hits Milestone Ahead of Pulse Shooting Anniversary

June 11, 2019by David Smiley
Parents of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a shooter killed 17 people in 2018, push petitions for 2020 ban on assault weapons in Florida. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS)

A group pushing to ban assault weapons in Florida has hit a significant milestone in its effort to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot.

Ban Assault Weapons Now!, a bipartisan organization led in part by survivors of mass shootings in Orlando and Parkland, announced Monday that it has obtained 103,000 signed petitions. The total should be enough to trigger a Florida Supreme Court review of its proposed ballot question, a mandatory step in the process.

The group held a press conference outside the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office after submitting thousands more signed petitions.

“Hundreds of thousands of Floridians across the state are getting behind this effort to place a ban on the ballot, because they know that this isn’t a partisan issue — this is an issue of public safety,” BAWN Chairwoman Gail Schwartz, the aunt of slain Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Alex Schachter, said in a statement.

The announcement comes two days before the third anniversary of the June 12 massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, during which a gunman with a legally purchased Sig Sauer MCX rifle killed 49 people. Pulse survivors Ricardo Negron-Almodovar and Brandon Wolf are on the BAWN steering committee, as are the parents of Pulse victims Jerry Wright and Drew Leinonen.

The organization must compile 766,200 signed petitions from verified voters by February in order to get a constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot. The verification process is conducted by local election supervisors, and a mandatory Supreme Court review is triggered once 10% of the requisite signatures are obtained.

A court review can take several months but won’t stop BAWN from seeking more petition signatures.

Schwartz said Monday that she’s confident the ballot question will make it before voters in 2020 and pass, but her organization still has a lot of work to do. It so far has submitted only about 10% of the 1.1 million signatures it plans to gather in order to meet the ballot question threshold. And it has little more than half a year to do it.

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©2019 Miami Herald

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