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Parkland Activists Launch Effort For A 2020 Ballot Amendment Banning Assault Weapons In Florida

Parkland survivor and gun control activist, David Hogg, center, stood with other Parkland shooting victims' families in Fort Lauderdale Monday to announce the BAWN initiative for the Florida 2020 ballot.
Caitie Switalski
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Family members of victims from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre and shooting survivor David Hogg launched on Monday an effort to get a constitutional amendment on the Florida ballot in 2020 that would ban the sale of assault weapons. 

Hogg and Gail Schwartz, who lost her 14-year-old nephew Alex Schachter at the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting, were among the group that dropped off 200 signed petitions to be certified at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office in Downtown Fort Lauderdale. "This is not something you move on from," David Hogg said of the shooting at his high school that killed 17 people last year. "If we don't survive high school, then there is no future."

The first batch of petitions kicks off a new campaign by the non-partisian coalition called Do Something Florida! 

The political action committee,  Ban Assault Weapons NOW is organizing and paying for the effort. 

Hogg noted that in the almost year since the shooting he feels the March For Our Lives activism movement has not stalled. 

“It’s time that we, as Americans, recognize that every type of gun violence - no matter how many victims there are, no matter if it’s one person that’s injured or 49 that are killed -  is a preventable issue and must be addressed in every zip code. And every weapon that is used must be addressed,” Hogg said.  

He said he plans to spend Thursday, the one-year anniversary of the massacre, with his younger sister.

For the initiative to be considered by the Florida Supreme Court, Do Something Florida! needs to collect nearly 800,000 signed petitions from across the state. 

“There is so much work to be done still to get this common-sense amendment on the ballot,” sadi Gail Schwartz, chairwoman of Do Something Florida! 

“It’s time to ban the military-grade assault weapons in the state of Florida,” Schwartz said. “It will help to prevent the types of massacres that we’ve seen in our state, like Parkland and Orlando.”

The coalition is hoping to collect 1.1 million signed petitions, to prepare for the event that some signatures don’t match voting records and are thrown out. 

Groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and the League of Women Voters came to the elections office to show support for the proposed weapons ban. 

The bipartisan support for the proposed weapons ban on the ballot comes from the Republican group led by Parkland developer Al Hoffman. It’s called Americans for Gun Safety Now.

Ann Marie Milano spoke on Hoffman’s behalf with Do Something Florida Monday morning:

“Over the next year, Americans For Gun Safety Now will support Do Something Florida!’s efforts by educating Floridians on the critical need to ban assault weapons in our state to protect the ones we love,” Milano said. “Our bipartisan coalition is not trying to take anyone’s guns or second amendment rights.”

Debbie Hixon, whose husband Chris Hixon died in the shooting, said she’s hoping the initiative can get enough signatures to get on the ballot.

“I don’t believe assault weapons should be in the hands of civilians,” she said. “I’m not trying to take guns away from anybody, except people who shouldn’t have them.”

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Caitie Switalski is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She's worked for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee as an intern and reporter. When she's in Gainesville for school, Caitie is an anchor and producer for local Morning Edition content at WUFT-FM, as well as a digital editor for the station's website. Her favorite stories are politically driven, about how politicians, laws and policies effect local communities. Once she graduates with a dual degree in Journalism and English,Caitiehopes to make a career continuing to report and produce for NPR stations in the sunshine state. When she's not following what's happening with changing laws, you can catchCaitielounging in local coffee shops, at the beach, or watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.