‘Affirmatively misleading’: Florida Supreme Court blocks proposed gun-control ballot initiative

Second Amendment advocates are celebrating a win in the Florida Supreme Court this week.

According to the Washington Examiner, the court struck down a proposal that would have put an amendment to ban certain “assault” weapons up to a vote on the 2022 ballot.

As written, the amendment would ban semiautomatic rifles or shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds. Exceptions to the limitation, however, were extended to those who already owned such a weapon and had properly registered it with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“Purports to exempt registered assault weapons”

The state Supreme Court’s decision was based on a problem justices found in the wording of that exemption.

They argued that the language would have been misleading to voters by suggesting the gun itself is protected by the exception instead of just the registered owner.

“While the ballot summary purports to exempt registered assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to the Initiative’s effective date, the Initiative does not categorically exempt the assault weapon, only the current owner’s possession of that assault weapon,” the justices reasoned. “The ballot summary is therefore affirmatively misleading.”

The 4-1 decision will block the measure from appearing on the upcoming ballot. Justice Jorge Labarga was the lone dissenter, writing that a summary accompanying the ballot measure would provide “fair notice and equip voters to educate themselves about the details of the initiative.”

Gun-control advocacy group Ban Assault Weapons Now was behind the measure. It has pushed for similar legislation since the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida.

“Fundamentally failed the people of Florida”

Prior to the court’s ruling, the group had managed to collect about 175,000 of the roughly 766,000 signatures needed to secure a spot on the ballot and raised about $2 million for its cause.

Ban Assault Weapons Now Chairwoman Gail Schwarts expressed her displeasure with the decision.

“The Supreme Court, now controlled by the NRA in the same way as our Governor and our Legislature, has fundamentally failed the people of Florida,” she said. “Not only has the Legislature recently made it harder to pass ballot initiatives, now the people must also face a Court of rightwing ideologues who will only approve initiatives they agree with politically.”

What constituted a disappointment for the state’s gun-control activists was a development gun-rights advocates can claim as another judicial victory.

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