By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
June 12, 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Three years ago Wednesday, a man who pledged himself to the Islamic State took the lives of 49 people at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando using an assault style rifle.
As members of the LGBT community mourned those lost, a citizen initiative aimed at banning assault weapons in the state crossed a major hurdle.
First hand accounts from survivors of mass shootings in a new ad are part of a campaign to ban assault weapons in the state, called Ban Assault Weapons NOW.
“Everyone around me was either dead or shot,” one survivor of the Parkland shooting recalled in the ad.
Just days before the third anniversary of the Pulse Night Club Shooting, the campaign announced it had collected 100,000 signatures for an initiative that would put the question of banning assault weapons before voters in 2020.
The proposed constitutional amendment will now be revised by the Florida Supreme Court.
“They have no place whatsoever in civilian hands,” said League of Women Voters of Florida President Patricia Brigham.
Brigham was in Orlando for the anniversary of the shooting.
“The best way to never forget is to honor those who were lost by getting these weapons of war off the streets,” said Brigham.
Beth DuMond with Mom’s Demand Action Against Gun Violence said the citizen initiative is the result of a Legislature that has repeatedly refused to consider a ban.
“If they're not going to be heard by their legislators they're going to have to go around them,” said DuMond.
New restrictions on how petition gathers can be paid will likely make it more difficult for Ban Assault Weapons NOW to collect the remaining signatures needed to make it on the 2020 ballot.
Lakey Love, an LGBTQ activist, said the restrictions won’t deter those pushing for the initiative.
“The Executive level leadership and the political arena is really pushing us to that place where the people just have to stand up and fight back,” said Love.
However, with more than 600,000 signatures needed and less than a year remaining to collect them, it’s guaranteed to be an uphill battle.
A vigil was held at the State Capitol Wednesday evening in remembrance of the 49 who lost their lives at Pulse.
For many the shooting was the spark that triggered the outcry for a ban on assault weapons.