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Moody stands ground in opposition to assault weapons ban

Florida's attorney general criticizes proposal's 'misleading' wording

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In her first public remarks since two mass shootings erupted across the country over the weekend, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody stood her ground on a proposed assault weapons ban.

Moody, who has come out against the ballot measure, was asked about her opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment at a news conference Monday in Jacksonville. She said she is not opposed to the policy, but rather the “deceitful and misleading” way it’s presented.

“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,” she told reporters.

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The ballot measure would make it illegal in Florida to own “semiautomatic rifles and shotguns that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once,” either with a magazine or ammo-feeding device. A grandfather clause would let people keep guns they already own but require them to be registered.

Last month, Moody called for the Florida Supreme Court, which screens ballot initiatives for clarity, to block the proposal from going on the November 2020 ballot.

The proposed amendment, spearheaded by the Ban Assault Weapons NOW political committee, has support from grassroots organizations like Moms Demand Action that promote stronger gun laws.

“Their primary purpose is to kill people,” said Cheryl Anderson, who leads the group’s Jacksonville chapter. “Having those on our streets and in the hands of civilians instead of military personnel that are in warzones, all it does is bring warzones to our streets. It’s not necessary.”

Like Georgia, Florida has no laws banning assault weapons or high-capacity magazines. Both states allow gun owners to transfer or sell firearms without background checks. Six states and D.C. have bans on military-style firearms and it’s illegal to own high-capacity magazines in eight states along with D.C. 

The attorney general acknowledged that, in the wake of the mass shootings that killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas and 10 more in Dayton, Ohio, more can be done by authorities to identify threats and protect people from “those that are mentally deranged that would seek to do us harm.”

Yet she criticized the amendment’s wording, which she characterized as “far-reaching and misleading” language that would potentially cover family heirlooms and guns that "in no shape of the imagination would one think would be described as an assault weapon."

She sidestepped a question when asked if she’d accept a more precise version of the proposal.

“My office specifically has a responsibility to the citizens of this state to tell you whether or not we believe it meets that statutory definition of clarity and, if it’s going to mislead the voters, we have to communicate that to the court,” Moody said.

Ultimately, it’s up to the state Supreme Court to determine whether the proposal is clear enough and meets the legal requirements to make it on the November 2020 ballot. It’s unclear when the court will take up the issue and hand down a decision.

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