17 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 649 (1989-1990)
Form or Substance - Definitional Aspects of Assault Weapon Legislation

handle is hein.journals/flsulr17 and id is 659 raw text is: FORM OR SUBSTANCE? DEFINITIONAL ASPECTS OF
ASSAULT WEAPON LEGISLATION
THOMAS R. THOMPSON
O N JANUARY 17, 1989 in Stockton, California, Patrick E. Purdy
dramatically altered the national gun control debate. Using an
AK-47 purchased in Oregon to avoid disclosure of his California crim-
inal record,' a seventy-five-round-capacity drum magazine, and a
thirty-five-round-capacity banana clip, Purdy fired 110 rounds of 7.62
millimeter bullets across an elementary school playground, killing five
children and wounding twenty-nine others and a teacher.2 Purdy
quickly became a symbol of the failure of gun control legislation to
both sides of the gun control debate. Pro-gun control organizations
viewed the episode as an example of the dangers of unregulated fire-
arms;3 anti-gun control forces regarded the incident as an example of
the failure of the criminal justice system to deal effectively with crimi-
nals.4
Immediately after the incident, many persons and organizations be-
gan calling for restrictions on the sale and purchase of assault
weapons.' Gun control advocates had focused their attention on hand-
guns or ammunition; consequently, there had been little attempt to
restrict such weapons separate from other rifles or shotguns. Follow-
ing the Purdy incident, however, in 1989 at least eighteen states, the
District of Columbia, and the federal government addressed the issue
of assault weapon control.6
Members of the Florida Legislature proposed four bills relating to
the control of assault weapons during the 1989 Regular Session. After
much publicity and debate, one bill passed both houses and was ap-
proved by the Governor.
1. Washington Post, Jan. 19, 1989, at A 1l, col. 1.
2. Id. at AI0, col. 3; Washington Post, Jan. 18, 1989, at Al, col. 6.
3. See NATIONAL COALITION TO BAN HANDGUNS, ASSAULT WEAPONS AND TEm NEED TO BE
BANNED (1989); 2 HANDGUN CONTROL, INC., LAW ENFORCEMENT BULLETIN 1 (1989).
4. See 2 UNIFIED SPORTSMEN OF FLORIDA, FLORIDA FInnG LIE 1 (1989); SECOND AMEND-
MENT FOUNDATION, BAN ON SEMIAUTOMATICS: UNcONsTrruTioNAL HYSTERIA 4 (1989).
5. See Washington Post, Jan. 20, 1989, at A3, col. 4; Washington Post, Jan. 19, 1989, at
A26, col. 1.
6. Telephone interview with Eric Ellman, Staff Member, National Coalition to Ban Hand-
guns (June 28, 1989); Tallahassee Democrat, April 23, 1989, at BI, col. 4.

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