Gun control among issues teed up for constitution panel

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The debate over gun control is ready to move to a new forum, as the Florida Constitution Revision Commission next week begins the process of deciding what issues to place on the November ballot.

Facing a May 10 deadline, the commission will start meeting Monday in the Senate chamber in Tallahassee as it considers three dozen proposed constitutional changes that have emerged from committee hearings.

The commission, which meets every 20 years and has the unique power to place issues directly on the general election ballot, has scheduled seven floor sessions to wade through the proposals, ending on March 27.

One measure (Proposal 3), sponsored by Commissioner Roberto Martinez of Miami, is likely to generate debate, as it has attracted several amendments related to gun control in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The amendment was initially designed to remove an obsolete provision in the Florida Constitution that bars illegal immigrants from owning land.

But Martinez, a former federal prosecutor, has filed an amendment that would also require anyone purchasing a firearm to be 21 years old. And it would require at least a three-day waiting period after a gun purchase to carry out a “comprehensive background check.” It would ban “bump stocks,” devices added to weapons to greatly increase their firing capacity.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale has another proposed amendment that would ban assault-style weapons.

Also, Commissioner Hank Coxe of Jacksonville has filed an amendment that would raise the age of buying a firearm to 21 and would impose a 10-day waiting period. It also would ban bump stocks. Commissioners Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, Sherry Plymale of Palm City and Frank Kruppenbacher of Orlando are supporting Coxe’s amendment.