Nikki Fried blasts the NRA’s influence on Tallahassee politics, asks to be removed from lawsuit

knotted gun
Knotted gun sculpture, New York City. Pixabay photo

Saying it’s a new day in her department, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says the state should drop its appeal of a recent court ruling on gun control.

The case in question deals with a 2011 law that threatened a $5,000 fine for any local official who passed a regulation on guns. Last Friday, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson ruled in a 15-page motion the law is unconstitutional. Dodson also ruled that a provision of the law that allows Florida’s governor to remove local officials who try to regulate guns is also unconstitutional.

Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody filed an appeal to the case on Tuesday.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services handles concealed weapons permits, and it was among the original defendants in the original lawsuit. It was previously led by Adam Putnam, who once described himself as a “proud NRA sellout.”

But Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, has informed Moody’s office that she wants her department removed from the appeal and is calling for the state to do so as well.

“When I was elected, I said the NRA’s influence on this office was over. And I certainly won’t let them argue on in court on my behalf,” she told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday. “It’s time to let our communities, our local officials and our people move forward.”

The 2011 bill was sponsored in the Florida House by then-Republican state Rep. Matt Gaetz, and the New Yorker magazine reported last year that legal papers filed by the NRA showed that the guns rights organization was “deeply involved in advocating” for the legislation.

The original legal action  was filed by the city of Weston in Broward County following the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 people were killed. Weston was  later joined by more than two dozen local governments and more than 70 local officials challenging the law’s penalty provisions.

Democratic state Rep. Dan Daley led the effort to file the lawsuit last year when he served as a City Commissioner in Coral Springs. He said he is disappointed, but not surprised, that the state is appealing the verdict.

“It simply shows that the NRA has more influence than the 412 municipalities that make up this great state,” he said.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman joined the lawsuit after it was initially filed last year. A former state legislator, he says he understands the concept that in some cases, regulations should be enacted by the state rather than local communities, but not when it comes to regulating guns and ammunition.

Fred Guttenberg lost his daughter Jaime in the Parkland shooting. He blasted Moody for not only her decision to appeal this ruling, but also her intervention last week to try to stop a potential constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot that would ban assault weapons. And he attacked the NRA for its continuing influence in the state legislature.

“There is only one organizing force behind wanting the attorney general to be doing what she is doing this week, and it is the NRA,” he said. “Make no mistake. The NRA may be weak. They may be weakened. But they have set Florida as ground zero for their effort to fight back, and we’re seeing that this week.”

While the speakers cheered the ruling, it doesn’t mean that local governments are about to enact any gun regulations any time soon. That’s because the judge left intact the original 1987 state law that prevents local governments from regulating firearms and ammunition.

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