Municipalities Cannot Pass Their Own Gun Laws and Local Officials Can Be Held Personally Liable If They Try to Do So
In a 4-1 decision, Florida’s Supreme Court reiterated the State’s preemption statute that prohibits cities and counties from passing their own gun laws. The ruling also confirmed the financial penalties that public officials are subject to if they try to violate the state’s supremacy in all matters related to guns and ammunition.
Since 1987, the State of Florida has reserved to itself the entire sphere of firearm and ammunition regulations, doing away with a confusing quilt of local rules and ordinances that made it difficult for residents to remain legally compliant while traveling throughout the state.
In 2011, the Florida legislature added “teeth” to this preemption statute by including civil fines for elected officials (or government employees) that try to impose their own restrictions in contravention of state law. The new legislation contained language that any violator of Florida’s preemption statute, having done so knowingly and willfully by a court of law, could be fined up to $5,000. Furthermore, the law prohibited the use of any public funds to defend or reimburse the illegal conduct. In other words, the violator had to pay the fine out of their own pocketbook.
Following the tragic Parkland shootings in 2018, dozens of municipalities in Florida tried to pass their own more restrictive gun laws, directly contravening state law. They found themselves stymied, particularly by the personal penalties that now accompanied the preemption statute. As a result, these cities and counties joined forces and challenged both the preemption statute itself and the financial penalties attached to it.
The courts initially upheld the preemption statute but agreed with the litigants’ claims that the financial penalties violated their “legislative immunity” as elected officials. The State of Florida appealed the decision vacating these financial penalties… and they won their appeal. The litigants went back to court to argue their case once more before Florida’s Supreme Court. The Florida Supreme Court has now ruled decisively that the financial penalties for elected officials or government employees are not illegal or unconstitutional. Officials do not have “legislative immunity” to willingly violate Florida law. The financial penalties for those that do so remain in full force.
This lawsuit has been going on for over 4 years. It is likely that hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been expended to pay for the outside lawyers hired by these municipal officials to sue the State of Florida.
It is not lost on this observer that taxpayer funds were used to pay for a multi-year, Quixotic lawsuit designed to shield elected officials from personal financial penalties for violating Florida law.
Increasingly, gun abolitionists find themselves on the defensive. Yet, despite recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court, and lower federal and state courts having repeatedly affirmed the Second Amendment and its protections for firearms “in common use” they refuse to take no for an answer.
Fortunately, it has become increasingly obvious that Second Amendment advocates are equally determined to fight their efforts in every court.
As dedicated as they appear to be to the deny our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, gun rights advocates are equally adamant to defend it.
Raul Mas is a media commentator, editor, business development adviser and a producer and host of news and business programming for legacy and digital media outlets. A graduate of Harvard Business School and Georgetown University, Raul spent thirty years in the world of international finance and wealth management with firms such as Goldman Sachs, Chase and American Express. He’s contributed political and economic commentary in both English and Spanish to organizations as diverse as Univision, Telemundo, The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald, CNN, Newsmax, Fox News, ENTV USA, America Teve, Mega TV, Radio Caracol, Radio Actualidad, Voice of America and others. A strong supporter of our veterans and military service members, Raul has worked diligently on behalf of our vets has been recognized with numerous awards at the local, state and national level. He is also editor of The Outdoor Wire Espanol Edicion.