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Florida Democrats criticize state’s appeal of gun preemption ruling

“I’m in a really pissed-off mood by what’s happening in the state this week.”

Several Democratic elected officials are speaking out after Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a notice of appeal in a case challenging a portion of the state’s gun preemption law.

The state filed the document late Tuesday. The 1987 law blocks local governments from passing stricter gun control measures than those approved at the state level.

That law remains in effect. But a 2011 expansion which added penalties for local officials who violate that preemption was ruled unconstitutional by Circuit Judge Charles Dodson. Those penalties include fines and removal from office.

In a Wednesday afternoon press call, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried argued attacks in Orlando, Parkland and elsewhere since the passage of that 2011 law necessitates revisiting those penalties.

“Florida has dealt with unimaginable tragedy with gun violence,” Fried said.

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“It’s a different world now. We’re a different state than were then, and it’s time to take a different approach to these issues.”

Fried called the punitive measures against local officials “some of the most extreme laws anywhere in the entire nation.” Fried reiterated calls to remove her office from the lawsuit and pushed Moody to drop the appeal altogether.

“It’s time to stop wasting taxpayer time, money and resources with this appeal,” Fried argued.

State Rep. Dan Daley, who previously served as a Coral Springs City Commissioner, was among the plaintiffs challenging those penalties. He also spoke Wednesday regarding the state’s decision.

“I’m extremely displeased, although not surprised, to see the state appeal this ruling,” Daley said.

“It simply shows that the NRA has more influence than the 412 municipalities that make up this great state.”

Daley has pushed for the entire gun preemption statute to be changed, arguing that gun regulations should be left up to local leaders.

But absent that, Daley argued the penalties pressure local officials to avoid doing anything that could be considered a violation for fear of reprisal.

“Elected officials are able to test the boundaries of preemption,” Daley said, referring to other preemption measures that don’t carry such penalties.

“Under the existing law, there’s a process in place that’s worked well for years. It’s unconscionable that an elected official can be removed from office, fined, and attacked in their individual, civilian capacity for doing what their residents demand.”

Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter in the 2018 Parkland shooting, also criticized Moody during the Wednesday call.

“I’m in a really pissed-off mood by what’s happening in the state this week.”

In addition to the appeal in the gun preemption case, Guttenberg also singled out Moody for opposing a potential 2020 ballot measure that would ban assault weapons in the state.

Moody argued the amendment’s language is “clearly and conclusively defective.”

“I am the poster child for what can go wrong when laws fail,” Guttenberg said.

“I am the poster child for what can go wrong when law enforcement doesn’t have the tools to do their job or won’t do their job.”

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman also spoke out, emphasizing his role leading a major Florida city.

“I’ll be the first one to recognize that there might be times where a preemption by the state is appropriate,” Kriseman said. “But the regulation of guns and ammunition and anything related thereto is not one of those situations.”

Kriseman said the state should revisit its decision to preempt local gun laws. Though with Republicans in charge of both houses of the Legislature and the Governor’s mansion, such a move is unlikely.

“We in the cities and in counties, we know our communities better than the state,” Kriseman said.

“It’s the height of hypocrisy for the state Legislature to continue to impose preemptions on us across the board on so many different issues. And this case was an example of an overreach beyond any that we’ve seen throughout the country.”

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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