Citizens' initiative filed to put assault weapon ban on 2020 ballot

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Voters may get a chance to vote to ban assault-style weapons in Florida.

Following the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Democratic lawmakers tried to force a debate on banning assault weapons.

The effort was voted down, mostly along party lines, as Stoneman Douglas students watched in dismay from the gallery. But family members of victims are now leading a new effort to put the question before voters in 2020.

“We are tired of waiting for the Legislature to do something. We’re tired of our children dying,” Ban Assault Weapons Now chair Gail Schwartz, who lost her nephew in the Parkland shooting, said by phone.

The proposed amendment would prohibit all semiautomatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds. 

The group has already collected more than $400,000 from just over 1,900 supporters. The average contribution is small, just $145.

"This is going to be very expensive,” Schwartz said. "It’s a massive endeavor and it shows that Floridians are ready for change."

Gun dealers, such as Mark Folmar who owns Folmar's Gun & Pawn in Tallahassee, say when people worry their guns might be taken away, sales jump.

"There are people who don’t have one, who don’t want to have their right taken away and so they feel, like, 'Well, if I don’t, then I never can,'" Folmar said.

If the amendment passes, those who already own assault weapons could keep the guns they already own, but would have to register their firearms with the state within a year of the amendment’s effective date. 

So far, no signed petitions have been verified by the state.

Experts say it takes collecting at least 1 million signatures to meet the required 766,200 signatures to get on the ballot.

The National Rifle Association and Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence were not available for comment on this story.