Judge clears way for challenges to gun law

AR-15 rifles line a shelf in the gun library at the ATF National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia

A circuit judge has given a boost to more than 30 local governments challenging a 2011 state law that threatens stiff penalties for city or county officials who approve gun restrictions.

Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson last week refused a request by Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office to dismiss three consolidated lawsuits that contend the 2011 law, which threatens penalties such as removal from office, is unconstitutional. Local governments challenged the law after the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, as at least some cities and counties looked at approving gun-related measures.

The Legislature passed the tough penalties in 2011 as a way of enforcing a decades-old law that gives control of gun regulation to the state rather than local governments — a concept known as state “preemption.” The 2011 law, in part, threatens removal from office and fines for city and county officials who pass restrictions that violate the older preemption law.

But in court documents, attorneys for the cities and counties argued that the penalties are unconstitutional on a series of grounds and have had a “chilling effect” on local officials considering gun restrictions.

“Plaintiffs have asserted a number of proposed regulatory and legislative actions that they wish to take,” said an August court document filed by attorneys for the local governments. “Regardless of how confident city or county officials are that they have the authority to take the proposed actions and that these actions would not violate the preemption law, they nevertheless have been prevented from pursuing them any further due to their fear that defendants or private parties may interpret their actions as violating the preemption law.”

Bondi’s office in July filed a motion on behalf of the state and several state officials to dismiss the consolidated cases, in part arguing that there was no “justiciable case or controversy” because the penalties have not been enforced.

“Plaintiffs do not allege that any of the defendants named in these actions (or any other state official) has ‘actually threatened’ them (or anyone else) with enforcement of the challenged provisions,” the motion said. “Instead, plaintiffs allege only that because they wish to enact and enforce ordinances that may be preempted … they are convinced that they may, at some indeterminate point in the future, be threatened with enforcement by some entity or individual they do not identify. Accordingly, these actions should be dismissed for lack of a judiciable case or controversy.”

But in a seven-page order issued last week, Dodson rejected the motion to dismiss the allegations against the state, Bondi, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Dodson granted dismissal against three other defendants — the state auditor general, the Broward County state attorney and the Broward County sheriff.

Dodson noted that Gov. Rick Scott has also been named as a defendant but was not part of the motion to dismiss by Bondi’s office. Bondi’s motion said Scott had other legal counsel.

“The attorney general, the FDLE commissioner and the agriculture commissioner are the state officials who administer and enforce the state’s regulatory scheme for firearms, which is protected by the preemption and penalty provisions,” Dodson wrote. “The relief sought in these cases … would have direct consequences on these defendants’ duties.”

The local governments involved in the challenges are primarily in South Florida but also include cities such as Tallahassee, Gainesville, Orlando and St. Petersburg. The National Rifle Association filed a friend-of-the-court brief in July supporting the motion to dismiss the cases.

News Service Of Florida

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4 comments

  • Jaque Bauer

    October 25, 2018 at 9:45 am

    Imagine a patchwork of traffic laws where every county or city has its own peculiar laws in conflict with state laws. Drivers traveling thru Florida would not know what law to obey. Or if individual cities had their own versions of the first amendment. Imagine the how large the jails would have to be to fit all the lawbreakers. This is what these mayors and city managers are demanding, to impose laws that violate state and national laws, including the laws of the constitution. It cannot be permitted. It must not be permitted.

    What if a gun store or range was in a city that banned the AR15. It would have to deny more than half its customers access, those being AR15 owners. Or if an AR15 owner traveled across the state passing thru cities with bans on the AR15. Or what do owners of guns these communist run cities have banned do with their gun collection should their arms be banned ?

    I can tell these communist mayors that most gun owners will defy their laws and never surrender their natural right to arms. Never. The 2nd Amendment does not give Americans permission to own guns. Instead it tells the government it has no jurisdiction over citizens ownership of their guns. That the citizens rights to guns is a natural right a god granted right, a right we are born with.

  • Hippybiker

    October 25, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    They tried the same thing with the stand your ground law, and the6 got smacked down, too!

  • Gregory Lee Donoghue

    October 26, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    What is it about “Shall Not Be Infringed,” that does not register with these Judges?

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