Legislature votes to widen scope of gun control preemption

Politician: Man Holding Handgun Concept For 2nd Amendment Rights
Cord Byrd hopes legislation makes local governments think twice about abridging gun rights.

The Legislature has passed a bill further restricting local governments’ ability to pass gun control measures.

The bill (SB 1884) clarifies that existing preemptions on local firearm and ammunition laws also apply to unwritten rules and policies. The legislation would also make clear local governments can’t bypass court cases simply by scrapping gun laws.

Rep. Cord Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican who has carried the issue in the House, said the Legislature needs to shore up the law because of defiant local officials. He cited multiple examples just this year of local governments passing ordinances despite preemption laws in place since 1987. It’s the same reason in 2011 that the Legislature put in penalties for local officials who vote for local ordinances regardless of state law.

“Local governments thumbed their nose at this body, thumbed their nose at this Legislature, and said we do not care,” Byrd said.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat, criticized Byrd directly on the bill, saying since Byrd represents gun owners who have sued local governments over such regulations, he stands to profit from this legislation.

Byrd pushed back on that, saying he wants to send a message so strong, governments stop wasting taxpayer money passing laws they have no right to consider.

“I hope I never take another preemption case again,” he said.

The House voted 78-39 in favor of the bill.

Democrats fought hard against it on the House floor, arguing both that local governments need the ability to govern and that the state government has abdicated its own responsibility to regulate firearms.

“Local government should have the power to say if guns are allowed,” said Rep. Felicia Robinson, a Miami Gardens Democrat. She said localities know the desires of their own constituents and the threats facing them.

Rep. Dan Daley, a Parkland Democrat, represents a constituency gravely impacted by gun violence, the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. He actually sued then-Gov. Rick Scott over Florida’s preemption laws in 2012 and still hopes to bring the case to the Supreme Court.

He said changes to the law approved in 2011 that added fines and potential removal from office for local officials who dare vote for local gun regulations go way too far.

“There is no other preemption in state law that has these grave preemption,” he said.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat whose district includes the Pulse nightclub where 49 were shot and killed in a 2016 mass shooting, said if state lawmakers are afraid to confront the gun lobby on restricting firearms and ammunition, they need to leave that ability to local government.

But Second Amendment supporters said the state shouldn’t allow infringement of gun rights at all. If measures restricting firearms are considered, it should be done by the state so regulations are consistent throughout Florida.

“We are dealing with a constitutional right,” Byrd said.

He also suggested critics were disingenuous discussing penalties because those already exist in law. His bill only clarifies the scope of preemption.

The Senate earlier this week already passed the bill along a party line vote.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Richard Nascak

    April 28, 2021 at 11:43 pm

    Representative Byrd is absolutely correct. The original preemption statute, sans penalties, was enacted in 1987. The Legislature naively presumed local governments would abide state law. Au contraire. Local governments, particularly those under Democrat control, blatantly ignored statute. In 2010, there were over 300 county and municipal governments having ordinances regulating firearms/ammunition in direct violation of 790.33 Florida Statutes. Some were legacy ordinances long forgotten and never enforced, however many were not only being enforced, but had been enacted AFTER 790.33 declared them void ab initio (from the start) and ultra vires (outside of authority). Upon presentation of this research, the Legislature acted with 2011 HB45, adding strong penalties for offenders. Between its signing into law by then Governor Scott and its October 1, 2011 effective date, many local governments repealed their offending ordinances, but not all. Knowing legal action was expensive for an affected individual or organization, several local governments waited until a lawsuit was filed until repealing or amending the offending ordinance, and moving to moot the case, denying plaintiff’s court costs and legal fees. Finally, some jurisdictions attempted to sidestep being sued by including a legally insufficient disclaimer – “except as permitted under 790.06 Florida Statutes”. But these legal tapdances performed by local governments have, and are being shut down by both the courts and the Legislature. Even under home rule, local government cannot violate statute.

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