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Chris Smith proposes adding assault weapon ban to state constitution

Saying there’d been no effort to address assault weapons in the Florida Legislature Session that just ended, Democratic former state Sen. Chris Smith has offered an amendment to the Florida Constitution that would ban them.

Smith, the former Senate Democratic leader from Fort Lauderdale who is one of 37 members of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, has introduced an amendment to the commission’s Committee Substitute for Proposal 3. His amendment would essentially be a strike-all after the opening clause and would change the proposal from one about the purchase and ownership of real property to one about the purchase and ownership of assault weapons.

“Since the 2016 horrific shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and especially after the Valentine’s Day tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School, Floridians have signaled their support for an assault weapons ban,” Smith said. “Since the Legislature did not act, I wanted to give the people the power to decide for themselves.”

His proposed amendment, were it to be adopted by the commission and voted favorably by 60 percent of Florida voters next fall, would ban such purchases.

“The sale or transfer of assault weapons, as defined in this subsection, is prohibited. The legislature may enact legislation consistent with this subsection, and may provide exceptions to the prohibition on the transfer of assault weapons legally possessed prior to the effective date of this subsection,” part of the amendment reads.

It could come up for commission consideration as early as Tuesday’s CRC meeting in St. Petersburg. Or not.

At a CRC meeting in Melbourne three weeks ago, dozens of public commenters requested that the CRC propose a constitutional amendment that might ban assault weapons. CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff offered no interest at all in re-opening what has been an eight-month process that came up with the 37 active proposals on the commission’s table, and none of them had anything to do with guns.

Smith said things have changed, and he’s convinced such an amendment would be immediately topical and well in keeping with the commission’s mission.

“Sometimes you have to react to things people want done. This is a way for the commission to say, ‘OK, this is an issue that didn’t come up, but it can be brought in now,'” Smith said.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

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