Several organizations supporting gun rights will hold a forum Monday aimed at pushing back against "the gun grabbers in Tallahassee" and a group seeking to place a state constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot banning certain semiautomatic weapons.
Separately, the board of one of the sponsors of the rally, the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, has unanimously approved a "resolution of noncompliance," indicating it would not comply with the proposed constitutional amendment.
The resolution of noncompliance approved by the Republican Liberty Caucus read in part that "we, the lawful citizens of the state of Florida and the United States of America, do hereby resolve to defy and resist any and all registration or confiscation attempts of our lawfully owned arms, and that we will not comply with any orders to do so, as all laws or amendments that require such are illegal, a direct assault on our constitutionally protected rights, and therefore automatically null and void by default, regardless of what any constitutionally ignorant voters, judges, law enforcement officials or legislators may say to the contrary."
"This is a drawing a line in the sand kind of thing," said Bob White of Suntree, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida and its local affiliate, the Republican Liberty Caucus of Central East Florida.
White said members of his organization plan to defy to constitutional amendment if it makes the ballot and is approved by voters.
"We've never done anything as strident as this," White said, while adding that "an unconstitutional law is no law at all."
The resolution — which was approved by the 12 voting members of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida board — said that "it is our prayer that those who desire to impose these unlawful infringements will recognize their errors, and bring themselves back into constitutional compliance. But, if not, we will be left with no choice but to exercise our God-given right and duty to resist. Be it assured that we will not register any of our arms, nor will we surrender them. We will continue to freely exercise our rights, with or without the approval of the state or our fellow citizens, so help us God."
White said the resolution was written by Royce Bartlett, the host of the "Shooting Straight" radio show on WMMB.
White said it appears the effort by the political committee Ban Assault Weapons Now to get the proposal on the ballot in 2020 may not succeed.
As of Tuesday, the state had tallied 130,232 signatures for the proposal. Sponsors of proposed constitutional amendments are required to submit 766,200 valid petition signatures to get on the November ballot.
Petitions are submitted to county election supervisors, who verify the signatures and report the information to the secretary of state. The process must be done by Feb. 1.
But White noted that signatures gathered for the constitutional amendments targeted for the 2020 election can be used for the petition-gathering for the 2022 election.
The proposal from the political committee Ban Assault Weapons Now calls for prohibiting “possession of assault weapons, defined as semiautomatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition-feeding device.”
The measure builds in certain exemptions, including for assault weapons legally owned before the ban would take effect, although those guns would face a registration requirement.
The proposal emerged after the February 2018 mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people.
Ban Assault Weapons Now, the gun-control group Brady and a coalition of 13 cities filed legal briefs in December, saying that the proposal meets legal tests to go before voters.
The Florida Supreme Court must sign off on proposed constitutional amendments and looks at the wording of ballot titles and summaries — the parts of amendments that voters see when they go to the polls.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation filed briefs in November, raising a series of objections to the proposed amendment, including the NRA taking issue with the term “assault weapons,” which it described as impermissible political rhetoric.
But the backers of the proposed amendment disputed such arguments and said the wording clearly informs voters about the intent of the measure.
“The intent of the sponsor and supporters, which include law enforcement and military veterans, is to prevent future tragedies by restricting the possession of the most lethal firearms that may be used to commit mass killings,” the Ban Assault Weapons Now brief said. “The proposal specifically targets semiautomatic rifles and shotguns that are capable of accepting more than 10 rounds at once and does not include any firearms that do not meet the definition of an assault weapon.”
The Republican Liberty Caucus resolution of noncompliance said "the lawful, firearm-owning citizens of Florida" have "grown weary of and righteously indignant against the constant defamation, slander and vilification directed toward us by the enemies of our right to keep and bear arms in our state legislature, municipal governments, political action groups and the news media."
It contends that "we are not required by any sense of courtesy, legality, decency or morality to yield up the free and lawful exercise of any of our constitutionally protected rights to the unfounded fears of our fellow citizens, elected officials, or members of the judiciary or legislative bodies."
White said the resolution and the series of forums around the state are part of an effort to build a resistance against the organization Ban Assault Weapons Now and its proposed constitutional amendment.
Even if the proposal does not make the ballot in 2020, White said, "we don't expect them to go away."
Second Amendment Forum
The Second Amendment Gun Rights Preservation Forum will begin at 7 p.m. Monday at the Holiday Inn Express Space Coast Convention Center, 301 Tucker Lane, Cocoa, off Stare Road 520.
Speakers at Monday's forum will include Bartlett; White; Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey; Bill Mick, the host of the "Bill Mick Live" radio show on WMMB; Orlando attorney Kendra Parris, whose specialties include risk protection orders under Florida's gun control legislation; and Florida Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Lake County Republican and sponsor of "constitutional carry" and "campus carry" legislation in the Florida Legislature.
Constitutional carry is a form of permitting open carry of firearms. Campus carry would allow those with a concealed carry permit to carry their weapons on college campuses.
Sponsors of Monday's forum include the Republican Liberty Caucus of Central East Florida, the Trump Club of Brevard and Frogbones Family Shooting Center.
White said the Cocoa forum is one of a series of events around the state featuring elected officials and sheriffs that he says are designed "to better inform Floridians about these threats to their rights and freedoms."
Two forums were held in November in Lake and Polk counties. In January, there are eight forums scheduled — in Bay, Brevard, Escambia, Lee, Manatee, Seminole, Volusia, and Walton counties. Several more are in the planning stages in other counties.
"These forums will be educational and motivational … and will provide those attending with action items and information they can use to make a difference in the fight to protect their constitutionally protected, God-given right to protect their families, their liberty and their property," White said.
Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida contributed to this report.
Dave Berman is government editor at FLORIDA TODAY.
His Political Spin column appears Sundays in FLORIDA TODAY.
Contact Berman at 321-242-3649