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Politics

Gun Law Struck Down: Judge Sides with Local Governments

July 27, 2019 - 6:00am

A Leon County circuit judge late Friday struck down a state law that threatened tough penalties if city and county officials approve gun regulations.

Florida since 1987 has barred cities and counties from passing regulations that are stricter than state firearms laws. But in 2011, lawmakers went further by approving a series of penalties that local governments and officials could face if they violated the prohibition.

Local governments challenged the 2011 law after last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, in a 15-page ruling Friday, found the law unconstitutional on a series of grounds.

State Rep. Dan Daley, a Coral Springs Democrat who helped challenge the 2011 law while serving as a city official, issued a statement Friday night calling the decision “a major step in the right direction for gun safety advocates, local elected officials, and the state of Florida as a whole.”

“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 so without fear of penalty or punishment,” Daley said.

Dodson’s ruling did not strike down the underlying 1987 law --- known as a “preemption law” --- that prevents cities and counties from passing gun regulations tougher than state laws.

But the ruling affects the 2011 changes that created a variety of penalties for violating the preemption law. For example, under the 2011 law, local officials could face fines up to $5,000 and potential removal from office. Also, members of the public and organizations could receive damages up to $100,000 and attorney fees if they successfully sued local governments for violations.

During arguments before Dodson last month, Jamie Cole, one of the attorneys representing local governments, called the 2011 law “unprecedented,” pointing to the stiff penalties that city and county governments and officials could face. But Daniel Bell, an attorney for the state, said the law prevented a “potential patchwork regulatory scheme” of gun restrictions across the state.

Dodson’s ruling, in part, addressed “legislative immunity,” which protects local government officials in their decision-making processes. He also pointed to the constitutional separation of powers, as judges could be asked to rule on penalizing local officials.

“Because local governments must have what amount to small legislatures, and because courts cannot interfere in legislative processes, neither this court, nor any other court in Florida, can enforce the civil penalty provisions (of the law) against local legislators,” Dodson wrote.

Three lawsuits, involving 30 cities, three counties and more than 70 elected officials, were consolidated in the case that resulted in Dodson’s ruling.

During the case, lawyers for Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and the National Rifle Association argued that Dodson should uphold the penalties. DeSantis’ lawyers wrote in a court document that the Legislature approved the penalties in 2011 to strengthen the preemption law “after abuse and intentional ignorance by local municipalities.”

“(It) is a bedrock principle of American constitutional law that local governments have no legal authority to defy the will of their creator: the state,” the NRA argued in a March brief. “Local governments are creatures of the state subject to whatever limitations on their power that the state sees fit to impose consistent with the federal or Florida Constitution, and here, the state has seen fit to penalize local usurpation of the Legislature’s sovereign power.”

But attorneys for the cities and the counties wrote in February that local governments have been urged to take actions such as requiring procedures or documentation to ensure compliance with background checks and waiting periods for gun purchases and requiring reporting of failed background checks. But the attorneys said local governments refrained from going ahead with the proposals because of the “severe chilling effect” of the preemption law and penalties.

“By both incentivizing ideological lawsuits and imposing severe penalties on local elected officials and governments, the statute intimidates officials, preventing them from passing even constituent-supported ordinances they generally believe are not preempted,” the February document said. “The chilling effect of local officials’ abilities to do their job has cascading, adverse effects on plaintiffs’ speech, association, petition and instruction rights.”

Comments

Good deal! Counties and municipalities need to take back some of their power and independence that has been usurped by the power-hungry autocrats that have been running this state for the past 21 years!

Celebrate while you can because this is very temporary and applies to ONE DISTRICT only. The Supreme Court is going to correct this error.

The Florida Supreme Court will do far more than just "correct this error". They will set a hard precedent such that no activist judge in the future will ever again be able to pull this kind of crap.

These penalties are not for accidental, unintentional or inadvertent violation of the law. They are for KNOWINGLY AND WILLFULLY violating the law. That any court would condone, and give tacit approval to intentional violations of the law by public officials is not only alarming, it is injurious to the fabric of the deterrent effect of the structure and intent of laws. It is particularly perilous when it come to those laws promulgated to shield and protect the public from the actions of imprudent public officials.

Got to protect those politicians because they really know as much about the U.S. Constitution as this judge and that is next to nothing. These judges think they can make the laws or break the laws to whatever suits them, ignorance is no excuse only stupidity and we pay the price. The law this judge just cut protected the people against unlawful gun regulations and against unlawful, corrupt pelicans but who cares as long as they can't be sued.

let me remind you all the constitution is the USA law . and any law that goes against it is unlawful. there for liberals you can not ban gun cause you don't like them, but there is always a choice. there are many countries who have banned guns and there are planes and ships leaving to go there every day. and liberals wanting to rip up our constitution is why yawl are named the enemy of our country.

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That's wonderful Hillary. We're all glad that you've found a job. You can go away now...

I am creating an honest wage from home 1900 Dollars/week , that is wonderful, below a year agone i used to be unemployed during a atrocious economy. I convey God on a daily basis i used to be endowed these directions and currently it's my duty to pay it forward and share it with everybody, Here is I started..... HERE☛►► w­­­­w­­­­w­­­­.­­­­t­­­­o­­­­d­­­­a­­­­y­­­­s­­­­f­­­­o­­­­x­­­­.­­­­c­­­­o­­­­m

Yes yes yes Hillary, we're all glad that you've found employment. Now move along...

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My my Hillary, hawking pirated streaming TV sites now? You're more desperate than I thought.

A quick count of the comments reveals more than any bogus poll about the 2020 elections. Just like the 12 conservative comments to the lone 1 (one) febel minded leftist comment Trump will take Florida in a landslide 12 to one margin. Come on 2020!!!

It depends on the candidate that said it will be close. Could Trump win, Florida? Of course, he could. Can the Democratic nominee win Florida, as long as it is not Bernie Sanders yes! There will be no LANDSLIDE on either side.

Relax everyone! This is the PERFECT TIME for this lawsuit. Prior to the election that brought us our new governor, Governor Ron DeSantis, there were four leftists activists versus three centrists on Florida's Supreme Court. Those three activists have since been removed leaving six centrists versus one leftist activist on the Supreme court. So let's usher this lawsuit to the Supreme Court and get this ruled on and get this settled once and for all. It will be a pleasure.

Yes, Annie let's continue Florida's reputation as the home for "Old West gun laws." Out of step with reality and where the NRA owns every GOP member of the legislature. Sounds like a great idea!

That was a rather stupid comment.

When you put it that way, it gives me great relief. So perhaps more good will come from this than bad. Hope they can fast-track this to the supremes and put this garbage out to the curb.

Very STUPID JUDGE. Should check Constitution - Fed & State... s/he has NO JURISDICTION! Pure idiot!

What is the process for "Judge shopping" and how is the payment made? Sounds like a new exciting Project Veritas assignment. Federal, State, and lesser Governments all pretend Judge shopping and payments to Judges are not a thing because they just do not want to open that can of stink. Which can only mean both conservatives and liberals are guilty of "Judge shopping".

"Judges", a continuing bane to our existence: and aided by a "glut of lawyers in our political system", will continue in their efforts to turn Florida into some semblance of Chicago, and other "inner cities"; Beware Miami: You will be the first to FALL !

and now, "add into the mix" over a hundred million ILLEGAL ALIEN INVADERS,... (far too many of whom are ALREADY involved in the repetitive process of deportation for criminal behavior; a "process" ALREADY STYMIED 'at almost every turn' by judges & lawyers "compartmentalized in their own little blind corner existences behind the benches" !

But as I travel from one municipality to another even within the same county how do I know I am not violating a local ordinance? Do county ordinances usurp city ordinances? Do not forget this part of the 2nd Amendment "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

BINGO!

Most people haven't been around long enough to remember when some counties had over 30 cities. If you drove a mile, you went through 5 different police jurisdictions, 5 different speed limits with 5 different speeding tickets. This is one reason why I like preemption law and I'm sure the other 2 million plus licensed carriers feel the same. But I don't like this ruling on penalties. For too many years, city officials ignored preemption because it wasn't enforced. So I guess we'll just have to vote out the mayors and councilmen that violate the law.

Congratulations to the legislators, cities, and counties that sought to protect their residents and constituents. We all want to be as safe and secure as possible. Allowing locals to oversee and assure compliance is a good step. Thank you all.

Although that's a bogus left-wing argument, your political joy will be short lived. The Florida Supreme Court is going to provide a long-lasting smack-down that is sure to wipe the smirk from your face. :-)

Give me one gun law that is not already in the books that will keep you safer? I'll wait.

"Bill of Rights"/U.S. Constitution: No need to search any longer...

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