Parkland Families Urge Measure That Would Ban Assault Weapons in Florida

The families of Parkland students who were mercilessly killed last year are on a mission. As they know Florida is a conservative state, they have turned toward voters instead of lawmakers, urging them to ban assault weapons. 

Family members of the 17 people who lost their lives on Valentine’s Day 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School stood united with activists in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, February 10, 2019 to hand in only the first set of petitions on the matter. They aim to get a question on the 2020 ballot about prohibiting the possession of assault weapons known as “military grade.” If the measure passes, the ban on such weapons would be added to the Florida Constitution as an amendment. 

David Hogg, one of the students who survived the Parkland massacre, stated that if politicians would not take action on the important topic, voters can make a difference. 

So far, the effort has garnered 88,000 of the needed 766,200 signatures. It started almost a year ago thanks to activists and Parkland families who urged school safety through the legislature, which is controlled by Republicans. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act instituted a red flag law that required guns to be taken away by a judge from people believed to be mentally unstable. It also raised the minimum age required to purchase a firearm and banned the possession of pieces that could be attached to weapons to make them automatic. 

Sadly, the attempt to amend the bill to fully ban assault weapons didn’t pass. Then, in March, the Ban Assault Weapons Now (BAWN) committee was formed to push a petition that would make owning an semiautomatic rifle or shotgun that could carry 10 rounds illegal. 

BAWN Chairwoman Gail Schwartz said that it’s time to ban military grade assault weapons in Florida. She pointed out that the weapons are used by members of the military overseas on the battlefield. As the aunt of Parkland teen victim Alex Schachter, Schwartz was joined by Hogg and other activists as well as the widow of school athletic director Chris Hixon and the parents of Nick Dworet, a 17-year-old student who lost his life in the massacre. The group was joined by Do Something Florida!, a bipartisan organization whose goal is to push for a ban on assault weapons. 

At this time, BAWN has raised $439,000 in less than a year. However, they still need to raise millions in order to be successful. Schwartz acknowledged that the measure is huge and expensive to collect all the signatures needed in the state. 

The measure faces an uphill battle due to Florida’s conservative legislature, which isn’t interested in gun control. On the campaign trail, Ron DeSantis, Florida’s new governor, said he would have vetoed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. Of course, the National Rifle Association (NRA) also has huge clout within the state as well. 

Do Something Florida! has to submit petitions that are required in order to get the measure on the ballot. It aims to get 1.1 million and hopes the additional petitions will serve as a cushion of sorts if any signatures are dubbed invalid. The activists and Parkland families have just under a year to get those extra signatures so that they can be added to the November 2020 ballot. 

Hogg made the point that if guns kept people safe, Americans wouldn’t have the issue right now.