PANAMA CITY, Fla. — The heated debate over gun control continues as a proposed Florida constitutional amendment could ban the sale of assault weapons and require current owners to register their guns with the state.
“The government has no business knowing what kind of gun I’ve got or how many I’ve got,” said Ronnie Groom, owner of C&G Sporting Goods on Harrison Avenue.
Companies like Walmart have recently taken their own stand on the issue, deciding to stop the sale of certain types of ammunition that can be used in military-style weapons and requesting shoppers in open-carry states not to do so in their stores.
Some residents think this is a good idea.
“You never know who’s going to walk in Walmart and start shooting,” said Carl Jackson, one resident in favor of the changes. “If it’s going to keep us safe, I’m for it.”
But the new proposed state constitutional amendment takes it a step further, banning the sale of assault weapons in Florida altogether.
The measure defines an assault weapon as any semi-automatic rifle or shotgun that can hold more than ten rounds at a time.
However, by this definition, guns such as a Ruger 10/22 – a low-power rifle commonly used to teach kids how to hunt small game, like rabbits and squirrels, could also be banned since they have the capability of holding more than 10 rounds.
All current owners of these types of guns would be able to keep them as long as they are registered with the state. Economists say that registry could cost around $4 million dollars to build and $3 million annually to maintain.
Some agree this could be a step in the right direction.
“I think it could be a good thing to know who has what out there,” said Kimberly Vanderveen, a Panama City resident.
Others say it will not stop criminals from getting these kinds of weapons.
“A true villain is going to be able to get that gun no matter what,” said Linda Lashley, another Panama City resident.
“It’s the people we’ve got to worry about,” said Groom. “We’ve got to get these bad people off the streets and get the guns out of their hands.”
The proposal was created in Florida by ‘Ban Assault Weapons NOW,’ a group made up mainly of people affected by mass shootings like the Parkland school shooting in 2018 and the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016.
The group is working to get the proposed measure on the 2020 ballot. In order to do so, the proposal must first go through the Florida Supreme Court to review the wording that voters would see on the ballot. It also needs to get 766,200 valid petition signatures.
The petition currently has 105,062 signatures.