Assault weapons ban organizers top 100K signatures; seek court review

Darren Soto, Gail Schwartz, Anna Eskamani, Christine Leinonen, and Carlos Guillermo Smith
'This is a huge milestone,' Schwartz said.

Organizers of a drive to have a proposed assault weapon ban constitutional amendment on Florida’s 2020 ballot said they have topped 100,000 signatures and expect to get a review of ballot language by the Florida Supreme Court any day.

Ban Assault Weapons NOW and the League of Women Voters of Florida joined with Democratic state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Anna Eskamani and U.S. Rep. Darren Soto Monday to announce they’ve reached the point where they expect the review.

They also vowed that final approval Friday of HB 5, which restricts citizen initiatives to get measures on the statewide ballot, will not slow them down.

They met at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office Monday to turn in another 728 petitions. The news conference was held minutes after one concluded a few blocks away at Pulse, where organizers are preparing to mark the third year, Wednesday, of the massacre there that left 49 dead and 53 wounded. The Ban Assault Weapons NOW conference included family members of people killed at Pulse on June 12, 2016, and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2017, in Parkland, a massacre that took 17 lives.

Both gunmen used semi-automatic rifles that once were banned under federal law as assault weapons.

“Ban Assault Weapons NOW, a bipartisan initiative, has submitted over 103,000 signed petitions from Floridians all across the state who agree that enough is enough,” said Gail Schwartz, aunt of Parkland victim and chair of Ban Assault Weapons NOW. “We will soon be headed to Florida’s Supreme Court with our amendment that will, for the first time, give voters a say in the types of weapons we want [to be] sold in our state.”

The proposed amendment would ban “semi-automatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once.”

“This is a huge milestone,” Schwartz said.

Orange County Republican Chair Charles Hart blasted the proposed amendment and the effort behind it for seeking to take away fundamental constitutional rights from law-abiding people. Hart charged that Democrats are behind the movement and are taking advantage of suffering people and “a change in the political wind.”

He predicted the drive could backfire and bring people to the polls to vote support gun rights and to vote Republican while they’re in the booth.

Acknowledging that many of the people behind the drive lost family members at Pulse or Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Hart added:

“People are suffering. They’re upset. They have a right to be upset. But I don’t think they have a right to take away a fundamental right that every law-abiding citizen has. Their suffering is immense and my heart goes out to them. But at the same token, this is a right everyone should have.”

Ballot amendments must gather 76,620 petitions to trigger a Florida Supreme Court review and need 766,200 in all in order to make the ballot.

After reaching 76,620 verified petition signatures, the proposed ballot language goes before the Court for a review to determine if it meets Florida requirements for a ballot petition.

With 103,000 signatures in hand, Schwartz said she is confident that at least 76,620 will be verified.

Should the question reach the 2020 ballot, it likely will lead to one of the fiercest and costliest pro- and con- campaigns ever, as evidenced by the harsh political divide. Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, pointed out that public opinion polls have consistently found high majorities of Florida voters in favor of some sort of ban of assault weapons, especially since the Pulse and Parkland tragedies.

If it makes the 2020 ballot, it would need to earn approval from 60 percent of voters to pass.

Soto, Smith, Eskamani, and family members of victims and a Pulse survivor spoke of the need for a ballot initiative in Florida because the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature has not allowed committee hearings on bills to ban assault weapons sales.

“This is ingenious, Gail, because this is exactly what we need,” said Christine Leinonen, mother of Pulse victim Drew Leinonen. “We will be the first state in the country to ban assault weapons through this means.”

Smith noted he has introduced legislation to ban assault weapons in three consecutive Legislative Sessions since Pulse, and none was given any committee hearings or support by the Republican leadership.

“That is why we are here today,” he said Monday. “We are prepared to collect the number of petitions necessary to get this on the ballot so that voters can decide the issue once and for all.”

Eskamani noted that her House District 47, covering northern and central Orange County, is home to Pulse “where three years ago this week we lost 49 mostly queer black and brown people to the hands of one assault weapon. My motivation to run for office was to honor those no longer with us through action.”

To coincide with the petition-gathering milestone, Ban Assault Weapons NOW also released a two-and-a-half minute YouTube video featuring testimonials of people giving firsthand accounts of shootings with assault weapons.

To view the video, click on the image below:

Scott Powers

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 [email protected]


32 comments

  • gary

    June 10, 2019 at 5:12 pm

    Simple way to end 90% of all gun violence…. Make it illegal for a Democrat voter to own a gun! Any gun!

    All but 1 mass shooter in the last 20 years have been done by a Democrat. Look it up! Democrats are mostly un-America people.

    • David

      June 18, 2019 at 8:45 pm

      This is the really bad part quoted from the actual text of the initiative.any weapon classified as a sniper rifle. That is literally ever hunting rifle you have ever seen.

  • Sean

    June 10, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    There are roughly 80 million privately owned semi-automatic rifles in America, which would likely be incorrectly referred to as “assault weapons” under current media-political definitions. Many people want to ban these rifles, because they sincerely believe doing so would save lives. But would it?

    Let’s do the math…

    Let’s say that 90% of the owners of these “assault weapons” voluntarily turn in their rifles after a federal law was passed banning possession of them. I actually think that is a very high voluntary compliance number, as most of the gun owners I know are the “cold dead hand” type, but we’ll use it for sake of argument.

    That still leaves 8 million scary “assault weapons” in American homes. But, let’s say half of those people own more than one. And let’s be conservative again, and say that there are only 2 million homes where “assault weapons” now reside, with owners who refuse to voluntarily surrender them.

    How would the government get them from the people who refuse to voluntarily surrender them? Somebody’s got to go get them, which means the police.

    Under the Constitution (the parts of it which are still enforced) they’d have to issue a warrant to search each of those 2 million homes. And, they’d have to send local cops or deputies to execute those search warrants. And, since the police would be knowingly be going into a potentially dangerous situation with an armed suspect, they would treat all firearm confiscations as high-risk warrant executions. That means likely a no-knock service with a SWAT team (who would ironically be armed with ACTUAL assault weapons).

    Right now, law enforcement agencies across America execute about 20,000 high-risk search warrant services every year. If they were to collect the “assault weapons” from the remaining 2 million American homes, it would take them 100 years to do it…and that’s only if they stopped serving all other types of felons (murderers, rapists, pharmaceutical salespeople, etc.) They simply don’t have the personnel to execute all those warrants.

    But again, for the sake of argument, let’s say they did.

    High-risk search/arrest warrant services are extremely dangerous. There is a considerable likelihood of injury or death to both civilians and police. Civilians (often children) are killed 0.4% of the time, and police are killed 0.07% of the time during no-knock raids.

    So, banning “assault weapons” will result in the deaths of 1,440 police officers and 7,600 civilians, with approximately 1,500 of them being children. It would also result in roughly 150,000 injuries to both police and civilians, many of them serious and debilitating.

    If you support an “assault weapons” ban, you are supporting a course of action which will result in the deaths and injuries of exponentially more people than have been killed or injured in mass shooting incidents throughout all of American history.

    The numbers don’t lie.

    • Anthony

      June 15, 2019 at 8:06 pm

      We’ll put..I couldn’t have come up with a better answer.I only have to say These people are clinically insane.

  • Daniel M Roth

    June 10, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    This whole petition crap is insane. These guns are clearly not a problem even for lunatics like these organizers. They must have boring lives. How many Floridians are shot with so called assault weapons? Not much of a problem is it? Why all the fuss, really?

  • The Destroyer

    June 10, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    So violent crime, and firearm related crime are at near all-time lows in the US… only around 1% of all firearm related violent crimes are committed with rifles, of any type… so they are spending MILLIONS OF DOLLARS trying to ban something that is used in MAYBE 0.5% of all firearm related violent crime, while they COULD BE focusing on Mental Illness, which is a factor in nearly 100% of all Mass Shootings and a notable percentage of violent crimes, overall… Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? There’s No Money in battling Mental Illness, but there’s TENS OF MILLIONS in demonizing Inanimate Objects and labeling them as something they ARE NOT. I wonder what Gail Schwartz’ salary is for running BAWN, and what kind of additional benefits she receives? Hey Gail – you can help end Mass Shootings and FURTHER decrease Violent Crime WITHOUT trying to step on MY Constitutional Rights!… not like you care, though…

  • David

    June 10, 2019 at 9:31 pm

    Thanks for giving FL to trump because now all gun owners will come out to vote against that amendment

  • Randy Williams

    June 11, 2019 at 2:01 am

    These crazy people need to get facts right a person owning a AR-15 does not own a assault rifle.

    A assault rifle is fully automatic weapon not semi auto. They think that AR means assault but it means Arma lite the company who invented the style. So they also reason the gun was the problem, then as has been said before, my fork made me fat. Since America is overweight need to ban eating. Stupid can’t be fixed…..

    • Sean Sittig

      June 11, 2019 at 8:03 am

      Technically, an assault rifle is select fire which means burst or full auto, and of an intermediate caliber.

      • Fergwan

        June 11, 2019 at 6:26 pm

        Only because it was changed, verbiage wise the last 10 years, technically speaking….

        • Sean Sittig

          June 11, 2019 at 6:46 pm

          Hitler was around 10 years ago? News to me.

        • Hydguy

          June 12, 2019 at 7:27 pm

          Fergwan: you are so wrong. When I was in Marine Corps boot camp in 1991, the definition of an assault rifle was, and to this day, still is, a light weight, gas operated, shoulder fired weapon with select fire (semi-automatic with either a burst or full auto capability) that fires an intermediate cartridge. AR-15s are not ‘assault rifles’.
          Go peddle your revisionist garbage elsewhere.
          And there is no such thing as an assault weapon.

        • Blue

          June 12, 2019 at 10:28 pm

          I have 3 questions. How many of those signatures on the petitions are valid and from enough areas of Florida. Second, How much out of state money from Bloomberg and his shill groups was funneled into this operation as well as Steyer and Soros. Three, how many of these snowflakes that signed that are willing to kick in a door and take an AR or AK from a lawful owner?

          • Hydguy

            June 12, 2019 at 10:54 pm

            1: likely very few
            2: likely 99%
            3: not a single one

  • Steven Churchill

    June 11, 2019 at 3:39 am

    After a 47 year ‘War On Drugs’
    You can’t keep drugs off the street,
    You can’t keep drugs out of schools,
    You can’t even keep drugs out of
    Federal Prisons.

    Yet, you want me to disarm myself
    and trust that you can keep guns
    from criminals?

    Tell me another Fairy Tale!

  • Joey King

    June 11, 2019 at 9:07 am

    Heck while they are at it why not introduce a bill that would ban all legal sober citizens from driving that way only drinks killing drunks on roadway

  • M.E.

    June 11, 2019 at 9:32 am

    IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW MANY LEMMINGS YOU GET ON THE STREET BEGGING FOR THEIR RIGHTS TO BE TAKEN AWAY

    AND I’M HERE TO TELL YOU, IF YOU TRY TO TAKE OUR FIREARMS,

    1776 WILL COMMENCE AGAIN

    WE WILL NOT RELINQUISH THEM

    DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME

  • Pb

    June 11, 2019 at 11:43 am

    By this reasoning, Mob rule dictates what amendments we can make to the State Constitution. “As long as a mob supports it, your rights cease to exist.” And last I checked, the rights were granted by one’s Creator, NOT the government.

  • jason

    June 11, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    THE ENUMERATED RIGHTS UNDER THE 2ND AND 14TH AMENDMENTS OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION, SPECIFICALLY, “…THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEARS ARMS, SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.’, IS NOT AND NEVER SHOULD BE SUBJECT TO THE POPULAR VOTE OF THE PEOPLE. RIGHTS ARE RIGHTS. THEY ARE ENUMERATED, RECOGNIZED AND PROTECTED. THE BANNING OF ANYTHING HAS NEVER STOPPED THE USE NOR ILL USE OF THE ITEM. NO! OUR RIGHTS ARE NOT SUBJECT TO A BALLOT BY THE PEOPLE.

    • Darryl Lawton

      June 12, 2019 at 9:41 am

      Actually, the 14th Amendment made you a citizen of the United States Congress, stripped you of your God given unalienable rights and replaced them with so called “civil rights” which are actually government granted privileges which they can remove at their whim. It is a second Class citizenship and it makes you a tax slave to the de facto national government.

  • David Weaver

    June 11, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    “They met at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office Monday to turn in another 728 petitions. The news conference was held minutes after one concluded a few blocks away at Pulse, where …”

    Only minutes after? That was sure quicker than the armed response that stopped the killing – (nearly 3 hours after) in the case of Pulse.

    Couldn’t they have at least waited?

  • Charles Patrick

    June 11, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    Mass shootings are horrible and shocking sensationalized event. That said the probability of any one individual being a victim of a mass shooting is statistically so small that no one should rationally be afraid of being a victim. From Everytown:

    In nine years, mass shootings resulted in at least 1,793 people shot, including 1,001 people shot and killed and 792 shot and injured. One in five victims were children under the age of 18. In addition to the victims, at least 70 shooters also died by suicide after perpetrating a mass shooting, and another 17 were killed by responding law enforcement.

    That is roughly 200 people (yes I agree all lif is precious and no one should be assaulted, maimed or murdered) per year out of a US population 310 million people (based on 2010) 200/310,000,000=0.00000065 or a 0.000065% chance of being a victim. Go about your life deal with heroin and education leave guns. Guns are not the cause or foundation of the problem

  • Denny Peterson

    June 11, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    I have heard from 3 different people who were approached by petitioners asking them to sign petitions that they were told related to things like teacher salaries and clean water, etc….But when they actually READ the petition, it was the BAWN petition.

  • Patrick Hazell

    June 12, 2019 at 12:40 am

    The Second Amendment is right every citizen has. It was not given to individuals from any government. It is a natural right each of us has. And, it is absolutely not up to majority rule. If 99% of the public thinks your gun rights should be restricted, it does not matter. They are wrong and you are right to own and have the weapon of your choice for self-defense that right shall not be infringed!

  • SusanP

    June 12, 2019 at 12:43 am

    Ignorance and emotional blackmail at work once again to punish the law abiding for crimes committed by criminals. No amount of laws against ownership of a tool will ever stop criminals from mass shootings.

    What does stop mass shootings? Constitutional carry of firearms by law abiding citizens! These cowardly criminals who do these shootings never do them where their might be armed resistance.

  • Lee

    June 12, 2019 at 1:09 am

    Notice how the most militant vociferous hoplophobic gun grabbers tend to have serious ethical and legal issues of their own. Pervy Weisntein said he’s making it his mission to destroy the NRA. Do we need to speculate as to why? The rampant sex abuse and child molestation in the sleazy world of show biz has been a porrly kept dirty little secret for over 100 years. No wonder why the overpaid mannequins from Holywood love to throw their star power behind the gun control groups, looking pretty in front of the step and repeat backdrops parroting the tired old rhetoric about some epidemic of gun violence. And it’s the same as it ever was. One of the first pieces of gun control legislation, the Sulllivan Laws of NY, named for Big Tim Sullivan, a Tammany Hall kingpin even more corrupt than the Clintons. He wanted to make the streets of NYC safe, for him and the gangsters and muggers in his back pocket. After all crime victims who can shoot back are bad for business. Charles Rangell, never mind his tax evasion issues, that POS should’ve been arrested in 1972 for obstructing justice, if not aiding and abetting in the murder of NYPD Officer Phillip Cardillo. Here’s a doozy, fmr Cong Leeland Yee, friend of gun control activist Shannon Watts aka Gun Control Barbie, forced to resign because he’s in federal prison for….wait for eeet….GUN RUNNING! Remember Bernie Ward, the gun hating liberal talk show host sensation. He was gonna put Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity in their place. He was just about to score a lucrative deal with NPR, then suddenly disappeared. Turns out he’s now a registered sex offender after doing time for kiddie porn. The gun violence death clock put up near Times Sq. The funding for that stunt came from Robert Brennan, a junk bond dealing scam artist who makes Bernie Madoff look like Mother Theresa. He had just got out of the joint for securities fraud and other such niceties. I’m sure he had a pragmatic reason for this “public service”. Hey, if I scammed all those old folks out of their life savings I, too would be scared sh!tless if they, their kids or grandkids had easy access to firearms. Just saying. How about fmr NY AG and gun control advocate Eric Sneiderman, forced to resign when accusations of sexual battery surfaced? Seems he gets off on beating his mistresses senseless, including one who came over from Senegal whom he would hurl racial insults at while slapping her around, and another who’s jaw he broke before forcing her to..well…no need to go into it here. And the hits just keep on coming! Kenneth Glasgow, gun control activist and ex(?) thug who “turned his life around”, or did he? He’s now in the Dothan AL lockup facing capitol murder charges. Just hours after speaking at a march for our lives rally in Birmingham he hooked up with a bunch of thugs, one of whom shot a woman they were robbing with an ILLEGALLY OBTAINED firearm. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. The history of gun control is a study in hypocrisy of the worst kind.

  • Mark Walker

    June 12, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    Tell me again. Where in the Constitution does it say that you can infringe on rights if you get enough signatures on a petition?

  • Buddy

    June 13, 2019 at 5:58 am

    100,000 people trying to rule a state with 21,300,000 people. i guess they don’t believe in Democracy and are pushing to override those other 21,200,000 votes.

  • Don

    June 13, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    When will people realize it’s not the weapon but the person using it, people are killed by drunk or impaired drivers but no one wants to ban cars. I’m truly sorry for their losses no parent should loose a child so young as the ones at these school shootings, and to loose a friend or love one out for a night of fun is a tragedy. However trying to pass laws to prevent other people from legally owning firearms is not the answer. I wish I knew what the answer was to end all of this but I don’t.

  • Alyssa

    June 14, 2019 at 10:59 am

    Population of Florida is 21.64 million
    They got 100K signatures (the student body of about 5 colleges)
    So in other words they got 0.4% of the population of Florida to sign onto this.
    Im sorry but the student body of a couple college campus’s do not speak for all of Florida.

  • EWM

    June 16, 2019 at 9:44 am

    I hope this works. I don’t want any government agent to have assault weapons.

  • louiseravin

    June 16, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    It is our 2nd Amendment Right to own a gun. When you can no longer have a gun the govment can take over. The gun does not kill the person that has it in their hands kills. How will you control the criminal they will keep guns. Hitler took guns away and look what happened there.

Comments are closed.


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