by Scott Cooper
Elected officials from 10 South Florida cities Are challenging an NRA-backed state law that imposes strict penalties on local lawmakers — including removal from office and hefty fines — for enacting gun ordinances.
The cities — Weston, Coral Gables, Cutler Bay, Lauderhill, Miami Beach, Miami Gardens, Miramar, Pinecrest, Pompano Beach and South Miami — Are asking a judge to throw out a 2011 law which imposes a $5,000 fine on local government officials that create gun rules that exceed statewide restrictions. Under the legislation, the officials could also be ousted from office for the gun ordinances.
Weston Mayor Daniel Stermer invited invites “every county and municipal official” to join the challenge, filed in Leon County circuit court Monday.
“This lawsuit impacts each and every one of us who holds office,” Stermer stated. “The onerous penalties that exist within this statute … depart nowhere else in Florida statutes.”
Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and other statewide officials, including Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen, are among the defendants named in the lawsuit, led by the city of Weston.
A spokesman for the governor said. Bondi’s office said she had “not yet been served” in the situation.
The lawsuit contends the 2011 law in part Violates constitutional limitations on gubernatorial authority with respect to civil officers, conflicts with the right of elected officials to legislative immunity, and are “overbroad, in violation of local officials’ free speech rights.”
“These onerous penalties are vindictive and especially intended to be punitive in character,” lawyer Jamie Cole of the Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman law firm and other lawyers representing the cities wrote in the 45-page complaint.
Refrained from enacting “reasonable firearms steps” to reflect the views of the constituents “which may be appropriate for the specific circumstances of that municipality (as opposed to the ‘one size fits all’ approach of the State),” the lawyers argued.
According to the lawsuit, gun-rights groups threatened to sue Coral Gables and also advocated Scott to eliminate individuals from office “if the city so much as passed the proposed gun-related measures on first reading.”
And a former president of the national organization, said elected public officials should follow the law regardless of “how they think they are.”
Email Monday. “They remind me of disobedient children who complain about being penalized for doing something they knew was wrong and were warned about the consequences. I personally do not think the penalties are severe enough.”
Like other elected officials during the Country, the cities said they have been under pressure from adults and students to “take some action regarding firearms and ammunition to improve public safety” following the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 14 students and three faculty members dead.
Hall. “We’re not standing here to say we’ll pass laws which are unconstitutional, but to be able to pass constitutional regulation on arms that could potentially harm, hurt or even take the live of anyone in the public, should be possible. And now today, it isn’t possible.”
The lawsuit alleges that the 2011 law was created To “deter and chill local officials from contemplating reasonable, constitutional firearms regulations in their own communities.”
The plaintiffs “have thought of a panoply of Possible steps, including, but not limited to, the limiting of firearms in municipal-owned parks and facilities, the placing of signs relating to guns in municipal-owned parks and facilities, the regulation of gun accessories (such as holsters or high capacity magazines), or the creation of ‘gun free zones’ or ‘gun safe zones ‘ ” but are afraid of running afoul of the law, their lawyers argued.
Meanwhile, Skip Campbell, the mayor of Coral Springs and a former state senator has spearheaded a campaign to put on the 2020 ballot a constitutional amendment that would ban assault weapons.
Continue to blame the Legislature for not going far enough with a school-safety law, signed by Scott on March 9, that increasing the age from 18 to 21 and imposes a three-day waiting period for purchasing rifles and other long guns, similar to requirements in place for buying handguns.
The law also bans the possession or sale Of “bulge stocks,” which enable semi rifles to mimic fully automatic weapons. And it gives law enforcement officials the ability to seek court orders to seize weapons from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.
The same day Scott signed the bill, the NRA filed a federal lawsuit alleging the new restrictions on rifles purchases are unconstitutional.
The school-safety law also includes a Controversial provision giving school boards and sheriffs the capacity to allow certain teachers and other school personnel, who receive special training and are deputized by sheriffs, to bring guns to schools.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act to allow local school boards and sheriffs to choose what happens locally in schools,” Stermer said. “So for some reason it’s very good for that but not for the rest of us.”
The cities’ lawsuit does not dispute the State has the capability to preempt certain subject matters, such as honeybee colonies and the use of electronic devices in cars.
However, penalties are only outlined in the case of guns, the attorneys argued.
“In every other circumstance, the sole Consequence of a determination that local action violates express preemption would be a finding that such community action is null and void,” the lawsuit states.
This is not the first time that the law was challenged.
In 2014, a Leon County Circuit Judge ruled in favor of Palm Beach County, “The Legislature may not grant the governor the power to remove a county commissioner when that power isn’t supplied by the Constitution.” The county had challenged the law in 2012.
The ruling, however, maintained that the State could file legal challenges to any local government officer who attempts to enact local gun restrictions tougher than state law.
The issue has “been bothering municipalities” since the law was enacted in 2011, Cole told The News Service of Florida Monday.
“But it’s certainly become of much greater significance because of the Parkland tragedy,” he said.
Cole said he anticipates other South Florida cities to sign onto the suit.
“This is a clear infringement on the house the 2011 law. “If the Legislature will do this thing for Firearms, they theoretically can do it for any other preemption, which Would be a really bad situation.”