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Coalition aims to ban assault weapons by constitutional amendment

Two organizations created in the aftermath of February’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have joined together to ban assault weapons in the state of Florida.

Americans for Gun Safety Now (AFGSN) and Ban Assault Weapons Now (BAWN) say they have combined forces to create a bipartisan coalition to ban those weapons, with the goal being the passage of an amendment in 2020.

BAWN had already announced the push for an amendment earlier this year. Now, AFGSN says it will join those efforts by “spending its resources educating Florida residents and opinion leaders on this critical issue,” according to a release obtained by Florida Politics.

“Our collaboration with BAWN is a natural progression for AFGSN,” said Al Hoffman, founder of AFGSN.

“We are still dedicated to passing the six common-sense gun reform principles our organization was founded on, but by working alongside BAWN, we have the opportunity to make our own state safer first. This is a critical step to protecting future generations of Floridians.”

BAWN is a political committee primarily comprised of several family members of mass shooting victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and Pulse nightclub.

The group is still working on potential language for that 2020 amendment to define exactly what constitutes an “assault weapon.” As of yet, that definition remains unclear.

That could be a sticking point for voters deciding the fate of any potential amendment. “There’s no technical definition of an ‘assault weapon,'” notes The Washington Post in this explainer. While some associate the term with fully automatic weapons, those have been banned from public purchase since 1986, with some limited exceptions.

Others use the term to describe semi-automatic rifles with certain additional features which allow them to mimic military weapons.

The 1994 federal assault weapons ban made distinctions between semi-automatic weapons that were cleared for purchase and those that were banned under the law. But that led to some confusion and created loopholes. The Washington Post again notes“Any semi-automatic rifle with a pistol grip and a bayonet mount was an ‘assault weapon.’ But a semi-automatic rifle with just a pistol grip might be OK. It was complicated.”

Overly broad language could reel in a larger-than-intended number of gun models into the ban, provoking gun enthusiasts’ ire.

But BAWN Chairman Gail Schwartz says the partnership with AFGSN will help the organization achieve its goal of making the assault weapons ban a reality. For a 2020 amendment to be successful, it would need to earn 60 percent of the vote from the public.

“The BAWN and AFGSN partnership is a powerful step toward improving safety in our schools and our communities,” said Schwartz, who lost her nephew, Alex Schachter, in the Parkland shooting.

“Our goal is to take military-style firearms off the shelves, thus saving the lives of innocent people.”

The groups say they intend to appeal to lawmakers of both parties to pass future legislation, where necessary. Gun control advocates did achieve a victory following the Parkland massacre with the passage of a bipartisan law which raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, among other restrictions.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to

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