Attorney General Ashley Moody says the “horribly tragic” mass shootings in Texas and Ohio have not changed her opposition to a proposed assault-weapons ban that supporters are trying to get on the November 2020 ballot.
“There can’t be anyone in this country that wasn’t horrified, shocked and saddened by the events that took place this weekend,” the Republican attorney general said at a press conference in Jacksonville on Monday. “I agree we must get better at identifying and working together as law enforcement to protect Floridians against those that are mentally deranged that will seek to do us harm.”
But she says those events do not change her responsibility as Florida’s attorney general to review the language of proposed constitutional amendments that could end up on the ballot. Moody says she has a responsibility to make sure the ballot language is “clear and unambiguous.”
As previously reported by the Florida Phoenix, Moody objects to the assault-weapons ban amendment. In a letter to the Florida Supreme Court, which will review the measure, Moody says the ballot language is misleading because it does not represent the broad sweep of the ban that could impact “virtually every semiautomatic long gun” in Florida.
Moody says the proposed Florida ban would likely impact assault-style weapons that were apparently used in the Texas and Ohio shootings. But she says it would also impact weapons like a long gun that has been handed down in her family for generations because it can hold 10 or more rounds that can be automatically loaded.
Under state law, Moody says she has an obligation to make sure the ballot language “does not hide the ball or mislead voters.”
“This particular amendment would mislead voters into thinking they were banning a specific type of firearm when in fact they were banning virtually every long gun, including those that have been passed down from generation to generation in Florida,” Moody said.
Moody, who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in her campaign last year, says the ballot review must be done without any regard to her own policy positions.
“This has to be done with intellectual honesty regardless of any personal opinions as to policy,” Moody said. “Many times, I might receive a proposal for a ballot amendment and I might not think it’s the best policy. But if it’s clear, that’s not what my function is.”
In reacting to Moody’s opposition last week, Gail Schwartz, chair of the Ban Assault Weapons Now group that is advancing the amendment, says her organization believes that the assault-weapons ban language will pass the state Supreme Court review.
“This bipartisan ballot measure has been vetted extensively by legal experts and is supported by hundreds of thousands of Floridians across the state,” Schwartz said in a written statement. “We are confident with our chances at the Supreme Court, and presented with the choice to do so, we are confident that the people of Florida will overwhelmingly support this common-sense measure to ban weapons of war to make our communities safer.”
Ban Assault Weapons Now has collected 100,011 validated voter signatures as of Monday, according to the state Division of Elections. If the ballot language passes the court review, the group must collect at least 766,200 validated signatures by Feb. 1 in order to be on the November 2020 general election ballot.