Mayors score a victory in court battle over the NRA-backed state law which blocks local firearm regulations

Matt Gaetz

A Leon County judge ruled Thursday that a lawsuit over whether local officials have the right to pass  gun laws in their towns and cities can go forward.

The state of Florida and top state officials are trying to keep local gun regulation from happening, amid  the Florida Legislature having passed one of the nation’s most extreme pro-gun laws in 2011. The law punishes local government officials for enacting firearms regulations. More than a dozen Florida mayors went to court against the state earlier this year after the February Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in South Florida that killed 17 people.

Sponsored by U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz (then a state legislator and now a member of Congress), the law subjects local government officials to a host of penalties if they try to pass gun laws. Local officials can be removed from office and sued as individuals for as much as $5,000. Towns that attempt to enact such laws can be sued for up to $100,000. The law also prohibits using government funds to defend local officials in court.

The lawsuit originated from the Broward County city of Weston, which is near Parkland, the site of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School schooting.

Weston Mayor Daniel Stermer announced in February that because the law precluded his city from enacting gun-regulations, the city needed to go to court.

“Absent the Legislature changing it, which we don’t expect to happen, the only way to do it is through” court action, he said in February.

Since then, more than a dozen other cities joined the lawsuit, including Orlando and St. Petersburg.

The state of Florida, along with Florida’s agriculture commissioner, attorney general and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner remain as defendants in the case. The governor is not named in the lawsuit.

The state had sought to get the suit dismissed but lost in court Thursday.

“The cities and public servants we represent are pleased the court rejected the state’s attempt to prevent this case from proceeding,” said Eric Tirschwell, litigation director for Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control group that is representing the local governments in the lawsuit. “We look forward to showing why it is unconstitutional and illegal to threaten elected officials and their cities with severe penalties for taking action to protect public safety.”

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

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