The Florida Supreme Court is taking up a gun-rights case related to a 2011 state law which implements penalties on local governments if they pass stricter gun-control laws.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and a group of municipal governments brought the case to Florida’s high court. Before Fried was elected in November 2018, a coalition of local officials filed suit against the law after the February 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Florida law has prevented municipal governments from passing gun control stricter than state law, which was codified in 1987. They feel the issue lies with the 2011 penalties portion of Florida law.
Local officials had been urged to pass stricter gun control measures, according to a 2019 court document. They refrained to do so knowing penalties would be likely.
Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill amending the 2011 law broadening the punishments directed toward municipal governments, forcing them to pay as much as $100,000 if they impose strict gun control measures.
State Rep. Cord Byrd (R-District 11) co-sponsored the amended bill saying it was designed to strengthen the preemption.
“I brought this forward so that local governments will once and for all stop violating the rights and stop wasting taxpayer money,” said Byrd.
The legal fight between the state and the local officials has gone through multiple rulings and appeals, already. In 2019, a Leon County circuit judge found parts of the 2011 law unconstitutional, but an appellate court disagreed.
As recently as June, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued local governments “are entitled, under the Florida Constitution, to traditional legislative and governmental immunities that limit the Legislature’s authority to punish local lawmaking.”
Then in August, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s lawyers argued the Florida Supreme Court should not take up the case.
“In the decision below, the First District upheld statutory penalties for local officials who flout the Legislature’s preemption of local laws respecting firearms and ammunition,” the brief said. “That decision is correct and consistent with both precedent and the text and structure of the Florida Constitution, which ‘establishes the constitutional superiority of the Legislature’s power over [local] power.”
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