Fla. Court Tells Coral Gables, Cities They Can't Ban Guns (Dreamstime)
By Solange Reyner | Sunday, 18 April 2021 08:35 PM
A Florida appeals court last week upheld an NRA-backed state law barring local gun regulations.
Thirty cities, three counties, and more than 70 local officials in 2018 filed lawsuits, led by Coral Gables, challenging Florida’s decades-old law that bars cities and counties from passing regulations stricter than state firearms laws and threatens tough penalties if city and county officials approve gun regulations.
The lawsuits came in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a district judge in 2019 ruled that part of the law was unconstitutional, leading to an appeal from Florida Attorney Gen. Ashley Moody and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Leon County judges on April 9 rejected arguments that the 2011 law should be rejected because of two legal concepts known as “government function immunity” and “legislative immunity.”
Judge Susan Kelsey, writing for the appellate panel, pointed to the state’s “superior authority in this context.”
“Taken together, Florida’s Constitution and statutes limit counties’ and municipalities’ powers of self-government by requiring consistency with legislatively-enacted general and special laws,” Kelsey wrote in a 14-page opinion joined by Chief Judge Stephanie Ray and Judge Brad Thomas. “As the trial court correctly noted and appellees (the local governments and officials) do not dispute, the Florida Legislature likewise is authorized to enact general laws preempting all regulation in an area of the law. As this case illustrates, the Legislature has exercised its preemption authority with respect to firearms and ammunition.”
She also said the previous judge “erred in elevating the separation of powers doctrine over the state’s superior legislative authority validly exercised in this case.”
“Appellees argue that entities adopting firearm or ammunition regulations stricter than the Legislature’s are properly exercising their rights to discretion in governance, and that immunity derived from the separation of powers doctrine shields the exercise of that discretion,” Kelsey wrote. “The trial court accepted this reasoning, but we reject it.”
Kelsey also said the Florida Legislature has the authority to “abrogate legislative immunity
The National Rifle Association celebrated the ruling.
“MAJOR NRA COURT WIN: Florida appellate court upholds preemption statute and says that public officials can be fined for overriding state law and implementing local gun control,” the gun-rights group said on Twitter.
“The NRA was instrumental in passing this statute and filed an amicus brief in the case.”