While Democrats in Colorado are looking to scrap the state’s firearms preemption law, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a measure that strengthens the Sunshine State’s own preemption law and would allow cities and towns that try to impose their own local gun control laws to face six-figure fines… even if they take the laws off the books after being sued.
Oddly enough, Florida law already allows those fines to be imposed, but the 2011 law that created the financial penalties is being challenged in state court by a few activist mayors who are getting a legal assist from gun control groups.
DeSantis signed the bill about a month after a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld the 2011 law that threatens penalties if cities and counties approve gun regulations. Dozens of local governments and officials challenged the 2011 law after the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 people.
Attorneys for the local governments filed a motion April 23 requesting that the 1st District Court of Appeal send to the Supreme Court key issues in the case — a move known as certifying “questions of great public importance.” The Tallahassee-based appeals court had not acted on the request as of Monday morning, according to an online docket.
Under the 2011 law, local governments can be forced to pay up to $100,000 in damages and attorney fees if they are found to have violated the 1987 preemption on gun regulations. Also, local officials can face $5,000 fines and potential removal from office for passing gun regulations.
Under the new law signed by DeSantis, individuals can now file suit over “unwritten” local policies imposed by anti-gun mayors or police chiefs. Another change to the preemption law allows for financial penalties to be imposed on local governments even if they change or remove their own gun control ordinances, which should cut down on the number of deep-blue localities trying to put their own gun control regime in place.
As you can imagine, Democrats aren’t happy about the new law. In fact, getting rid of firearms preemption laws and allowing a patchwork quilt of local gun ordinances is one of the top priorities for the gun control lobby at the state-level. That’s why Democrats in Colorado are pushing so hard to get rid of that state’s preemption laws; once it goes away, Boulder, Aspen, and any number of other towns and cities could pass their own gun bans, which would not only make it harder for responsible gun owners to know whether or not their violating the law, but would also make it more expensive for Second Amendment activists to file suit against each and every infringement of our right to keep and bear arms.
Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, is sponsoring the local control bill. He said that by acting on a policy-by-policy basis, lawmakers can create safer communities across the state. But he said his bill acknowledges that different communities have different wants and needs when it comes to firearms.
“Each community has the unique expertise to know what it takes to make them safe,” he said. “…What works for Boulder might not work for Alamosa. What works for Sterling might not work for Denver. Our state includes a diverse set of communities and we should allow each to look out for the safety of their own.”
That’s a nonsensical argument on a couple of different levels. First, we know that gun bans don’t us safer. Washington, D.C.’s ill-fated handgun ban that lasted from the late 1970s until 2008 did absolutely nothing to reduce violent crime or homicides, and Joe Biden’s ban on so-called assault weapons back in the 1990s made it illegal to buy many common semi-automatic rifles, but didn’t curtail violent crime in the slightest.
Besides, even if gun bans worked (which they don’t), there’s that pesky problem of the U.S. Constitution. Democrats in Colorado know that if the preemption law goes away, there’ll be dozens of localities across the state imposing all kinds of new restrictions on responsible gun owners, and it’s going to be difficult to challenge each and every provision in court. Its easier to get away with unconstitutional gun laws if Second Amendment activists are forced to file dozens of lawsuits instead of one legal challenge to a statewide law.
Fenberg’s argument really falls apart when you look at the legislation that Democrats are pushing in Colorado. If cities or towns want to put gun laws that are more restrictive than state law in place, that’s fine. If they were to impose less onerous restrictions than what the state mandates, however, that would be illegal. In other words, local control is only an option if it leads to more gun control, not less.
While Colorado is heading in the wrong direction, it’s great to see Florida’s firearms preemption law get even better now that Gov. DeSantis has signed SB 1884 into law. I hope other states follow Florida’s lead in strengthening their own preemption laws, and frankly, given the renewed attacks on preemption that we’re seeing,, it might not be a bad idea to explore enshrining firearms preemption into state constitutions wherever possible.