Ban Assault Weapons in Florida Rocks!!

              I usually don’t get energetically involved in advocacy efforts of any kind, but there’s an effort just announced in Florida that deserves my support and your support as well.  I am referring to a group calling themselves Ban Assault Weapons NOW, which announced a petition drive to get an initiative on the 2020 Florida ballot that would amend the state Constitution and ultimately make Florida assault weapon rein.

              The effort has sparked the usual media coverage, some of which is inaccurate, some of which is simply dead wrong. So before I talk about whether getting rid of assault weapons will make a difference, let me just clarify what the proposed amendment would and wouldn’t do.  It doesn’t ban the ownership of assault weapons already in the Gunshine State. It does prohibit the sale or transfer of assault rifles into the state. And while Gun-nut Nation will no doubt do whatever it can do to prevent the initiative from getting on the ballot and/or becoming law, early polls indicate that, in fact, such a measure when put directly to the voters, might actually pass.

              The problem with this effort is, first of all, that collecting the required 766,000 signatures (the group has collected just short of 90,000) requires lots of cash, perhaps $5 million or more. That’s serious money, even considering that the group has access to some deep pockets, including Al Hoffman and several other real-estate biggies who announced their own gun-control effort last year.

              The other problem facing our friends pushing this Florida effort is the degree to which the whole issue of assault rifles has become something surrounded by more falsehoods than facts. Here’s a couple of the so-called facts about assault rifles which are nothing more than whole cloth:

  • The AR-15 isn’t an assault rifle because an assault rifle is a full-automatic weapon and the AR-15 only fired in semi-automatic mode. In fact, the current battle weapon carried by U.S. troops, the M4, can be set to fire in semi-automatic mode.
  • An assault rifle is no different from any other semi-automatic rifle, a design which hunters have been using for nearly a century in guns manufactured by Remington, Winchester, Browning, et. al. In fact, an assault rifle loads from a magazine inserted underneath the gun, which allows for magazine that hold upwards of 30-40 rounds. Traditional, semi-auto hunting rifles load from above the gun, which means their effective capacity is limited to 5 or 6 rounds.
  • The number of people killed and wounded by assault rifles each year adds a statistically-insignificant number to the 125,000+ Americans who shoot themselves or others with guns. Why prohibit law-abiding folks from owning a gun which has little or any responsibility for gun injuries that occur every year?

This last bubbe-mynsa deserves a paragraph all its own.The issue of assault weapons should never be considered in numeric terms – it goes far beyond that. After the massacre at Sandy Hook, the school building had to be torn down because its presence generated such terrible feelings of loss and anger for all town residents who drove or walked by. I understand that similar feelings exist amongst residents of Parkland and surrounding towns.

The point is that all gun violence creates both physical and psychic damage, but the latter injuries often go far beyond the families of gun-violence victims themselves. Newtown will never recover its sense of well-being and security following the terrible events at Sandy Hook. And the courts have long affirmed the notion that government has a ‘compelling interest’ in community safety precisely because we all want the place we live to be safe.

What the Florida initiative fundamentally represents is a community-wide effort to confront the gun industry over the lethality of its products, as well as to take issue with the nonsense promoted by Gun-nut Nation that we can all be secure and safe by just walking around with a gun.

I sent Ban Assault Weapons NOW a donation yesterday, they get another one today. And everyone who reads this column should chip in as well.  Here’s the link.

3 thoughts on “Ban Assault Weapons in Florida Rocks!!

  1. My opinion, probably unpopular here, is to regulate them similar to an NFA item. We don’t read about too many people shooting up schools with a Thompson submachine gun. That’s because only bona fide gun nuts own them; they are rare. My club sponsors an annual machine gun shoot open to the public. Under strict supervision, of course.

    So owners would have the choice. Get certified to own them within a given period or turn them in. Obviously I wouldn’t let Everytown write the rules. They would have to be fair.

    Now maybe I’m being a little arrogant here. For fifteen years before I changed jobs, Uncle Sam trusted me to work on stuff that makes a far bigger boom than an AR. I expect high standards from dear reader as well when trusted with stuff that can cause mass carnage. The fact that an eighteen year old with a chip on his shoulder could walk out of a gun shop with enough firepower to handle a battlefield should give us pause.

  2. Khal, Everytown is intentionally silent on anything to do with an assault-style weapons ban. And for good reason; it’s the word “ban” that perrenially gets the GVP community in trouble when trying to pass effective gun laws.
    They do like your idea on an NFA approach for such weapons – we’ve discussed it. Brady was also moving in that direction before Parkland, but after that they fell off the wagon.

    • Hi Brent and thank you. Mind you, I was probably a little fast and loose to pick on Everytown (with apologies to folks like Ted Alcorn et al) but should have said I would not want a strongly vested interest on either side to write rules on their own. I’d want to find that mythical fair and balanced panel to do it (I’ll continue writing when the laughter subsides).

      I’m on the Board of my gun club now. I guess we needed a token liberal. What I did with the current New Mexico ERPO bill was asked our state affiliate of the ACLU (I am a member) to read and comment on it. It was the Rhode Island ACLU that panned that state’s ERPO bill on due process grounds. Our affiliate gave it a thumbs up. The NRA gave that bill the usual brutal review and I wanted someone external to review it. I worked on an ERPO-type bill a couple years ago with NMTPGV and was hoping a fair bill would pass this year.

      Anyway, I like consensus solutions that leave, as Eisenhower would say, the extremes in the gutters and try to stay on all the usable surface.

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