Preemption laws all over the country not only make sense but protect the law abiding and responsible gun owner. For example, in a state with firearm preemption laws, no local jurisdiction may write a law that is contrary to that of the particular state’s law. In a weird alternative universe, New Jersey actually has something right, they have a preemption law. In states that do not have a preemption law, gun owners have to navigate through a patchwork of different ordinances, making it virtually impossible to know if they are breaking the law as they travel through any given state.
The subject of preemption laws has a long history in Florida, with a 2011 amendment to their law creating quite a stir. The amendment allowed civil penalties of up to $5,000.00 and removal from office by the Governor should an official enact a law that is contrary to Florida’s preemption law. The legislative intent of the provision was to hold bad-acting lawmakers accountable for willfully subverting the rights of citizens. In a 2019 lawsuit, as reported, a judge found that the provisions of the law were unconstitutional. From a 2019 press release from the City of Fort Lauderdale, the following statement was made:
In his ruling in City of Weston, et al v. The Honorable Ron DeSantis, Judge Dodson granted the Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and held that, as a matter of law, the penalty provisions added in 2011 by the Florida Legislature are unconstitutional and thereby stricken. In the decision, the court found that local legislators are protected by legislative immunity under both the Florida Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, the court ruled that the penalty provisions “violate the immunity for discretionary governmental functions” and that the provision granting the Governor the power to remove elected officials from office conflicts with those procedures already contained in the Florida Constitution.
This ruling was a blow to freedom delivered by the Circuit Court for Leon County. As fate would have it, the buck did not stop there. The case was appealed to the First District Court. Since the lower court’s ruling, some of the anti-civil rights usual suspects got involved. The Giffords Law Center filed an amicus brief and from their webpage we can gleam some interesting information, perhaps a peek behind the curtain:
Our brief explains that under this dangerous law, local legislators can be personally punished if they vote for a local ordinance later found to impinge upon the field of firearms regulation, and this law is part of a troubling national trend toward punitive preemption of regulation that might touch on the subject of firearms. We argue that this type of preemption law will chill legitimate exercises of local legislative authority in areas that are not preempted, and that there is no evidence that the harsh penalty provisions are necessary to enforce the preemption law or protect Second Amendment rights.
That statement can be dissected for thousands of words. “Dangerous law”? “Troubling national trend”? To them, the Second Amendment is a “dangerous law”. Their brief is basically saying they believe that gun owners should have to navigate a patchwork of laws, and that our lawmakers should not be held accountable if they create pitfalls for the citizens. The “harsh penalty provisions” they are referring to are no where near to the penalties that are inflicted upon responsible gun owners that unknowingly run afoul of the law. This is a perfect example of the pot calling the kettle black, and really, Giffords should do some soul searching on what laws they support and which manner. The policies and laws that Giffords would like to see enacted would completely eradicate the Second Amendment and make criminals of peaceful citizens. If the shoe were on the other foot….
When Astroturf groups like Giffords sound off about “common sense” legislation, one would think there is nothing more commonsense than giving people a fighting chance at knowing what the laws are for an entire state. For a change, the law pushing penalties upon lawmakers that go against preemption, in essence the Second Amendment, is about as common sense as it gets. There should be provisions in many of our laws at large that actually punish lawmakers for policy that goes against the Bill of Rights and people’s individual freedoms. This law should be commended, not condemned. If this were some sort of anti-freedom “gun control” law in the balance, Giffords would be singing a different tune.
On April 9, 2021 an opinion was delivered on Florida v. City of Weston from the First District Court of Appeal. From the decision:
The trial court invalidated Florida’s statutory penalties against local governments, local officials, and agency heads for violating the Florida Legislature’s total preemption of firearm and ammunition regulation. We find the challenged statutes valid and enforceable, and we reverse.
This is a big win for the firearm owners in Florida and should put lawmakers in anti-freedom jurisdictions on notice. From the analysis of the three judge panel, they further state:
We hold that the statutory penalty provisions disputed on appeal are valid and enforceable. Government function immunity does not shield entities that act contrary to or more restrictively than state law in the completely preempted field of firearm and ammunition regulation. Likewise, legislative immunity does not shield individuals who knowingly and willfully act contrary to or beyond the limits of state law.
What may come of this ruling is yet to be determined. Not having a crystal ball, I can only guess this decision will be appealed by the anti-freedom coalition that challenged the provision in the first place. This victory should be celebrated though, as well as emulated. The “chill of legitimate exercises of local legislative authority” that Giffords is so worried about actually reads: lawmakers shall atone for their maleficence. Other states should take such a stance concerning the civil rights of their citizens and follow suit. This could very well pave the way for we the people to hold our public servants accountable.
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