WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
State News

Florida Dems Continue Push For Assault Weapon Ban As Colt Stops Manufacturing AR-15s

Rich Pedroncelli
AP Photo

AR-15 style rifles were used in many recent, high profile mass shootings. The gunmen at the Vegas Harvest music festival shooting, the Sandy Hook school shooting and Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting used AR-15 style rifles. That gun has taken much of the blame for lost lives and is being targeted in gun bans across America.

Colt a gun manufacturer has announced plans to stop making AR-15 rifles for consumers. But the company isn’t the only manufacturer and some are calling for a ban on the guns overall.

In Florida, Ban Assault Weapons Now, a group run by Gail Schwartz the aunt of a student killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, is sponsoring a citizens’ initiative to ban what so-called assault weapons.

“What we’re trying to do is prevent the sale of military grade assault weapons such as the AR-15 and AK-47 being sold in the state of Florida," explains Schwartz.

Gun lobbyist Marion Hammer returns to her seat after speaking in the Senate Rules Committee meeting on gun safety in the Knott Building at the Florida state Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., Feb 26, 2018.
Mark Wallheiser
AP Photo

Longtime NRA lobbyist, Marion Hammer says the proposed ban is too broad. She says it isn’t clear which guns will be impacted.

"There is no statutory or legal definition of the term assault weapon. Whereas most definitions can be precise, this is an imprecise term. Assault weapon is an imaginary term that has no limit and no boundary.," explains Hammer.

Hammer says typically gun bans specifically mention the types of guns, while the proposal uses an all-encompassing term.

"Proponents of banning semi-automatics have simply used a huge litany of semi-automatic firearms by name. The drafter of this amendment took the easy way out and banned all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns," says Hammer.

But Gun Store and Range owner Charlie Strickland doesn’t think listing the gun by name would have helped either.

Charlie Strickland, CEO of Talon Training Group, posing in front of multiple long guns.
Blaise Gainey

"If you said the AK-47 style and the AR-15 style, I promise you next week there’d be another," explains Strickland. "We’d go with the M-1, M-14 style rifle would come back immediately, there still out there and they take a box fed magazine and are semi-automatic."

Strickland says banning guns is difficult because no matter how they’re defined them some guns will be included that many people think should be left out.

"Now when they added shotguns they really went a bridge too far," claims Strickland.

According to the Financial Impact Estimating Conference, half the shotguns available for sale would be banned if the petition is approved by voters. But that’s a loss Hialeah Democratic Representative Cindy Polo is willing to take.

"There is not a one answer, it’s not just one thing we can do but we have to do something," suggests Polo.

State estimators say the state could lose close to $30 million dollars in revenue if the ban moves forward. And Strickland says for him the ban would mean the loss of about 15% of his business. To that Polo says those numbers are nothing compared to a life.

Whether it's a young child, whether it's anyone of us I believe that our loved ones would think that that outweighs any number that a study would prove.

"Whether it’s a young child, whether it’s anyone of us I believe that our loved ones would think that that outweighs any number that a study would prove," says Polo.

Polo thinks Americans have been living in fear for too long. She wants action to be taken now. And she’s not alone. March for Our Lives is a youth-led movement for greater gun control. It began after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School shooting. Alyssa Ackbar heads the FSU Chapter and says the time for gun control reform is now.

"If they continue to ignore the voices of their constituents, then they better prepare to be voted out next election year," explains Ackbar. "It is my pleasure to be able to say that as long as representatives like Attorney General Ashley Moody fight against gun violence prevention efforts the activists standing around me will be here to call them out on their bullshit."

Attorney General Ashley Moody has filed a motion asking the Supreme Court of Florida to block the proposed gun ban amendment because the proposed language is a trick.