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Progressive groups call for constitutional amendment on guns

A coalition of progressive and other groups has asked the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) to consider a constitutional amendment that would “ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines.”

The Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Progress Florida, the League of Women Voters of Florida and 10 others sent a letter to CRC chair Carlos Beruff on Friday.

Noting that the issue is “politically charged,” the letter says the commission “has the ability within its own rules to bring the issue forward.”

In the wake of the deadly shooting at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Republican-controlled Legislature is moving proposals to train and arm teachers, among other school safety measures, but has blocked moves to consider a ban on the sale of assault-type weapons.

“One of the 37 proposed amendments before the commission tweaks the right to bear arms and could be amended to address assault weapons,” the letter explains. “There is a big difference between ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ – and between ‘difficult’ and ‘impossible.’ ”

CRC spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice did not comment specifically on the coalition’s request. The commission is now holding public hearings statewide.

“At (those) public hearings, commissioners are encouraging Floridians to provide feedback on the 37 active proposals that made it through the CRC committee process,” she said. That list is here.

The text of the letter and a copy of the printed letter is below:

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Dear Chairman Beruff and Members of the CRC:

The tragedy in Parkland and the ensuing discussion of antidotes to gun violence are perfect examples of the sorts of things the CRC was meant to address. Even though these horrendous murders came late in your process, we write to urge you to include on the 2018 ballot a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

It is no secret that these issues are politically charged, making it difficult or impossible for the Legislature to make any real change. Your Constitution Revision Commission is uniquely positioned to rise above the politics and move some real solutions to the ballot so that Florida Voters have the opportunity to have their voices heard.

You are likely aware of recent polling conducted by Senate leaders that found a strong majority of Floridians across party lines support a ban on military style semiautomatic assault weapons and high capacity magazines.  A Quinnipiac poll conducted earlier this week found 62 percent of Florida voters support a nationwide ban on the sale of “assault weapons.”

A Florida Atlantic University poll released Wednesday found a majority of voters over every party affiliation support stricter gun laws and 69 percent support a ban on assault-style rifles.  Polling conducted last week by one of our coalition partners reached similar conclusions.

In addition to the 64% of Florida voters who support a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and ammunition, the poll conducted by Public Policy Polling found that even more Floridians – 74% – would like the opportunity to vote on such a ban.  Under each one of these polls, a constitutional ban would be approved by Florida voters.

As the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel editorial board pointed out earlier this week, the Constitution Revision Commission has the ability within its own rules to bring the issue forward. One of the 37 proposed amendments before the commission tweaks the right to bear arms and could be amended to address assault weapons.

There is a big difference between “can’t” and “won’t” – and between “difficult” and “impossible.”   We urge you to put politics aside and let the citizens of Florida have their say.

Sincerely,

David L. Barkey, Southeastern & National Religious Freedom Counsel, Anti-Defamation League

Joe Saunders, Senior Political Director, Equality Florida

Barbara A. Petersen, President, Florida First Amendment Foundation

Laura Goodhue, Executive Director, Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates

Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director, Florida Immigrant Coalition

Terry Sanders, President, Florida NOW

Joseph Pennisi, Executive Director, Florida Policy Institute

Pamela Goodman, President, League of Women Voters Florida

Linda Geller-Schwartz, Florida State Policy Advocacy Chair, National Council of Jewish Women

Esteban Garces, State Director, Mi Familia Vota

Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director, Progress Florida

Monica Russo, President, SEIU Florida

Mark Walter, Executive Committee Chairperson, Sierra Club Florida

cc: All CRC Commission Members

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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