As a response to the Parkland shooting which left 17 dead, Ban Assault Weapons Now is pushing to get assault weapons banned in the state. Monday, they announced that they’ve reached the threshold to trigger a Supreme Court Review. I spoke with the chairperson of the committee about what exactly the ban does.
I’m with Gail Schwartz the chairwoman for Ban Assault Weapons Now. The organization has reached 103,000 signatures for the petition to ban assault weapons.
- Why you’re so passionate about this?
My nephew was slaughtered in his school, in Parkland, Florida by an AR-15. He was 14-years-old sitting at his desk in language arts class. And when I heard the stories of what happened to him and survivors of the shooting and the horrific massacre that occurred there and how our children were literally hunted as if they were enemies on the battlefield. I said to myself this can’t be the society that we as citizens of Florida choose for our loved ones. We have to do something to change the laws, this can’t be acceptable. We shouldn’t have to live in fear that when we go to any public outing we might be exposed to a shooting rampage. And as I started researching it I came across an article in my local newspaper that explained how the Parkland students could actually get an assault weapons ban. I knew that our legislature wasn’t willing to even discuss this, let alone bring it to the floor of the Florida Legislature to bring it to debate. And since they’re not willing to do what’s necessary to provide for the safety of their constituents, we as citizens are forced to do it ourselves.
- So how did you go about starting this amendment? Because, I’m sure several people have thought, “hey we shouldn’t even have these weapons available to citizens”, but since 2004 when the federal assault weapons ban ended nobody has done it.
I followed the instructions from the article. We can do this just through a citizen initiative, ballot initiative process. Where we take the issue directly to the voters. We are allowed to petition for a constitutional amendment if we can gather the required number of signatures, which is 766,000 throughout the state of Florida. And we can get them all collected by the deadline which is February 1st of 2020, we can take this directly to the voters. And for the first time we can give voters a voice on the types of weapons we want in our state.
- It’s no secret that Florida is known as a gun friendly state, sometimes even jokingly called the Gunshine state instead of sunshine. In a climate like we have in Florida this petition is likely to get some opposition, what do you say to those who don’t want the ban?
We’re not looking to take anyone hunting rifles or anyone’s handguns. This will not prevent anyone from their 2nd amendment right or their right to bear arms. This is simply the military grade assault weapons that are used to kill as many people as quickly as possible. No one should have the right to own a gun that has the capability of firing 30 rounds in ten seconds.
With about eight months until the deadline the petition has already received more than 100 thousand signatures. Schwartz says if the petition clears the Florida Supreme Court voters will ultimately approve it. For now, she is focusing her energy toward meeting the signature requirement.