Students protest at the Florida Capitol in 2018 following the Parkland school shooting tragedy. Julie Hauserman photo
A Florida court has struck down a 2011 state law that threatened the state’s locally elected officials with a $5,000 fine if they passed local regulations on firearms.
The ruling, however, doesn’t change the fact that state law still prevents any local government from passing gun restrictions.
The lawsuit was filed by the group Everytown for Gun Safety and representatives from more than two dozen local governments following the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 people were killed.
“This ruling is particularly significant because it is the first time any court has found that the gun lobby’s preferred extreme form of firearms presumption is unconstitutional,” said Eric Tirschwell, managing director of Everytown Law, the litigation arm of Everytown for Gun Safety. “The decision is welcome news for cities trying to respond with action, even if their ability to act continues to be limited by gun lobby-backed presumption laws.”
Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to appeal the case.
In his ruling, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson declared unconstitutional the threatened $5,000 fine as well as a provision that allows Florida’s governor to remove local officials who try to regulate guns.
The 2011 state law imposed fines on locally elected officials if they were “knowingly and willfully violating” state law by trying to impose stricter controls.
“Local elected officials have not just a right, but a responsibility to speak up and advocate for common sense gun reforms in their communities, and should be able to do without fear or punishment,” state Coral Springs Democratic state Rep. Dan Daley in a statement Friday night after the judge’s order was announced. Daley was a member of the Coral Springs City Commission last year when the city led the effort to sue the state last year.
Mayors from other Florida cities who later signed onto the lawsuit praised the ruling over the weekend.
“The judiciary setting the Florida Legislature straight again,” tweeted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “This should have never become law.”
The judiciary setting the Florida Legislature straight again. This should have never become law. https://t.co/rf67f0mxCA
— Rick Kriseman (@Kriseman) July 27, 2019
Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum – who was sued over a local effort to regulate firearms – also was a plaintiff in the 2018 lawsuit.
“Thanks to this ruling, local leaders can now lead on ending gun violence without the fear of fines, personal liability or removal from office,” Gillum tweeted.
If you can believe it, I was sued for passing a law against shooting guns in parks. Thanks to this ruling, local leaders can now lead on ending gun violence without the fear of fines, personal liability, or removal from office. So go pass local gun safety laws & end preemption! https://t.co/3Ct1TRoZDh
— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) July 26, 2019
All told, there were 30 municipalities, three counties and more than 70 elected officials listed as plaintiffs in the case.
The 2011 bill to reign in local efforts to control guns was sponsored in the Florida House by then-state Rep. Matt Gaetz, and the New Yorker magazine reported last year that legal papers filed by the National Rifle Association showed that the gun rights organization was “deeply involved in advocating” for the legislation.
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