TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Tallahassee's preeminent gun lobbyist warned state economists Thursday that passage of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban assault weapons could prove "devastating" to Florida's $1 billion firearms industry.

  • Florida ranks among nation's top 5 gun-producing states
  • ATF: 729,064 firearms manufactured in Florida in 2016
  • 766,000 more petition signatures necessary to qualify Assault Weapons Ban amendment for 2020 ballot

The group sponsoring the amendment, Ban Assault Weapons Now, has collected enough petition signatures to trigger a fiscal impact review by the economists. If it appears on the 2020 ballot, a statement describing its costs and benefits will accompany it.

Just what that statement should contain has emerged as a point of contention between supporters and opponents of the amendment. The lobbyist, Marion Hammer of United Sportsmen of Florida, told the economists that banning the sale of rifles and shotguns that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition would be so expansive that even the state's bread-and-butter tourism industry could suffer.

"The firearms industry is a $1 billion industry, not to mention the heavy impact to tourism for hunting and competition," she told reporters after her testimony. "They've got a tough job, because I don't know how they reach out in every area in which firearms are a major component."

The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reports that 729,064 firearms were manufactured in Florida in 2016, ranking it among the nation's top five gun producing states. Florida is home to the nation's third-largest firearms economy, underscoring the potential impacts of the proposed ban.

"When you ban common, everyday semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, you take away a part of life," Hammer said. "You take away recreation, you take away hunting, you take away a lot of things that normal everyday people enjoy and in which they participate."

But gun control advocates told the fiscal review panel it has an obligation to consider what they say would be significant cost savings associated with an assault weapon ban, including reduced health care and school counseling expenditures.

"I see the impact it has on our young people and our communities across the country," said Shannon Guse of Moms Demand Action. "Our kids have a true fear when they go to school."

Supporters must collect more than 766,000 petition signatures by February to qualify the amendment for the 2020 ballot. While their drive continues, Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican, has filed a motion asking the Florida Supreme Court to invalidate the amendment due to what she says is "misleading" language.