Now that our Florida friends are moving forward to place an initiative on the 2020 ballot that would exempt assault rifles from protection under the state’s Constitution, the local gun nut gang will soon start gearing up to defend their gun ‘rights.’ Article I, § 8 (a) says: “[t]he right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and of the lawful authority of the state shall not be infringed, except that the manner of bearing arms may be regulated by law.”
Note the phrase – ‘regulated by law.’ This phrase has been defined by the Florida Supreme Court to mean, “the right to keep and bear arms is not an absolute right, but is one which is subject to the right of the people through their legislature to enact valid police regulations to promote the health, morals, safety and general welfare of the people.”
If regulating a weapon used to kill and injure 34 people at Parkland on February 14, 2018 doesn’t promote the health, morals, safety and general welfare of the people, I don’t know what does. But leave it to my friends in Gun-nut Nation to pretend otherwise, and last Sunday they got some unexpected help from a seasoned news reporter who should have known better than to shoot his mouth off when he didn’t know what he was talking about.
I am referring to a roundtable on WPLG in South Florida which included a discussion about the afroementioned Constitutional amendment, whose backers are busily gathering signatures throughout the state to put the issue to the voters next year. Before I get into what was said by Politico’s Marc Caputo, let me just spend one paragraph explaining what the amendment does and, more important, doesn’t do.
Basically, the amendment follows closely the law passed in Connecticut after Sandy Hook, which prohibits assault weapons from coming into the state but grandfathers in guns already in the state as long as the owner registers such weapons with the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, a.k.a., the police. Connecticut prohibited new assault rifles by enacting a general law, which in the GOP/NRA-dominated Florida legislature is about as likely to happen as me staying on my diet and losing the 20 pounds I have been trying to lose since I was a bar-mitzvah boy.
So here comes gun-expert Caputo who starts off by saying that the Amendment has no chance of passing even though early polls indicate that it’s a 50-50 split. And then Caputo says: “Basically, this amendment bans basically all types of semi-automatic rifles, except for bolt actions or ones that have a fixed magazine with a capacity of less than 10 rounds,” blah, blah, blah and blah.
Wrong. The amendment prohibits the purchase or ownership of assault rifles not currently owned. And while the registration of any type of weapon is always a bitter pill for Gun-nut Nation to swallow, Florida already requires that purchasing a gun from a dealer requires a 3-day wait so that the state police can do a background check; in other words, the Florida cops already know who owns or may own a gun.
I guarantee you that as soon as Gun-nut Nation realizes that the folks promoting this amendment are serious and have a chance to succeed, Granny Hammer and her minions will launch their usual assault consisting of some riff or another on the idea that ‘they’ are going to take away all ’your’ guns. And the gun nuts will promote this nonsense by playing the video of an experienced, mainstream journalist telling his audience that this measure ‘bans all types of semi-automatic rifles’ when, in fact, it does not.
The amendment defines assault weapons as, “any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than ten (10) rounds of ammunition at once, either in a fixed or detachable magazine.” Want the names of some semi-auto rifles that do not accept magazines with more than 10 rounds? Try Browning, Remington, Benelli, Savage, Winchester – okay?
It would be a nice change if Marc Caputo would make some effort to align his future reportage on this issue with the facts. In the meantime, I’m going to send the folks in Florida another Franklin to help speed their work. You should do it too.