A judge in Tallahassee struck down a $5,000 fine that Florida mayors and city council members would be subject to if they try to pass gun control ordinances at the local level. The judge ruled that this penalty is excessive in its punishment of local entities who don’t comply with state regulations.
The Judge, Charles Dodson, also deemed a provision of the 2011 law unconstitutional. This law allows Florida’s governor to remove local officials who overstep theirs bounds when trying to pass burdensome gun control.
Dodson supported the law’s original intent, which prohibits local ordinances that go beyond firearms laws passed by the Florida Legislature. The Leon County Circuit Court judge’s ruling strikes down the threat of civil fines and removal for passing local gun control that is already “preempted” by Florida state law.
The recent ruling in the case of Weston versus DeSantis is likely the start of the legal fight. The administration of Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to file an appeal against the decision in a higher court. But now that this legislation is no longer an obstacle for municipalities, local governments have more flexibility in passing gun control that tests the limits of Florida’s preemption laws.
Jamie Cole, the lawyer representing Weston and 19 other cities filing a lawsuit against Florida, said, “It gives cities the ability to pass legislation that tests the boundaries of preemption, without fear of being thrown out of office or penalized.”
Sean Caranna, a member of Florida Carry’s board, said he was optimistic that the fine would be restored by a higher court, because it’s natural to link penalties to illegal behavior. He said, “It’s the same reason you have a monetary value attached to a speeding ticket. It discourages people from violating the law.”
Andrew Gillum, the Florida Democrat who lost to DeSantis this past November, was one of the original plaintiffs in the suit as the mayor of Tallahassee in April when the litigation first started. “Thanks to this ruling, local leaders can now lead on ending gun violence without the fear of fines, personal liability, or removal from office,” Gillum tweeted.
Since the Parkland shooting of 2018, Florida has become a battleground for gun control policy.
Pro-gun activists will have to be ready to go the extra mile. Should Florida fall, the floodgates are open for future gun control encroachments in Florida and other red states.
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