While Florida already has a firearms preemption law on the books that prohibits localities from imposing any gun control laws that are more restrictive than state law, a number of cities in the state have tried to ignore state statute over the past couple of years by imposing unwritten rules that don’t appear on the books.
Several lawmakers in Tallahassee want to send a clear message to these cities that what they’re doing is a violation of state law, and on Wednesday a House committee approved HB 1409; which wouldn’t just remind localities of what the law is, but would ensure that cities that violate the state’s preemption law can’t get away with it without suffering financial penalties as a result.
Last week, a sharply divided three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal sided with the gun-rights group Florida Carry over Broward County, which in 2014 created ordinances to prevent people from carrying weapons at airports and in taxis. In an opinion, Chief Judge Spencer Levine said the ban on “weapons” included guns.
“That is the type of nonsense that the local governments are continuing to engage in at taxpayer expense to clearly regulate what the state preempts,” [Rep. Coyd] Byrd said.
By clearly defining the state’s intent to overrule unwritten policies, the Representative hopes to stop them from creating policies that courts will inevitably defeat.
The proposal gives no forgiveness to local governments that are unaware of their law enforcement’s unwritten policies. In the bill’s first committee stop, Byrd said local governments are “getting terrible legal advice” if local governments aren’t aware or don’t know of their law enforcement agencies’ unwritten policies.
Groups in support of the bill include the National Rifle Association, the Unified Sportsmen of Florida and Gun Owners of America. Meanwhile, the Florida National Organization for Women opposes it.
The bill would also prevent local governments from getting out of paying penalties for damages by scrapping the offending policies. That’s worked in some cases.
In many cases, these localities are putting their gun control policies in place and relying on pro-bono legal efforts by gun control groups to help defend their rules when they’re inevitably dragged into court. By ensuring that these cities have to pay the cost of damages (and perhaps even attorneys’ fees for the plaintiffs), this bill should cut down on these types of anti-gun shenanigans.
A similar measure in Florida’s state Senate is in that chamber’s Judiciary Committee, while Boyd’s bill is headed to the House Judiciary Committee for one more vote before it hits the House floor.
In an ideal world these bills wouldn’t be necessary because localities would simply abide by the state law. Instead (and ironically), these cities and towns are ignoring state law in order to put local gun control measures in place that criminals will ignore, even if they were to be upheld by the courts. Why would these localities expect criminals to pay any more attention to their policies when the cities themselves are willing to ignore the laws that are already on the books?