TALLAHASSEE - A bitter battle between gun rights activists and representatives of some of the state’s largest cities and counties is shaping up in Florida appeals courts.
Government organizations like the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties are opposing a 2011 state law that threatened tough penalties against public officials who voted in favor of gun control laws in their jurisdictions.
Those penalties include fines, and removal from office.
The National Rifle Association has jumped in, urging Florida’s appeals courts to uphold the law. Cities and counties have been barred from passing gun laws that are tougher than state statutes since 1987. The 2011 law added the penalties and punishments.
The law came under challenge after the 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. After the school massacre, several local officials said they were asked to take action on gun control, including stiffer background checks, enforcing waiting periods and reporting failed background checks. However, those measures could be seen as being contrary to state law.
A circuit judge found parts of the 2011 law unconstitutional, pointing out that Florida’s constitution protects local office holders with legislative immunity.
Circuit Judge Charles Dodson also found that the law creates problems with separation of powers. Enforcing the law could create a situation where a judge could be asked to punish local office holders.
The state’s attorneys disagreed with that ruling and appealed.
The Office of the Florida Attorney General would not comment on the case, only providing the following statement:
“As this litigation is ongoing, we cannot comment further at this time.”
The next deadline in the case is Jan. 22, when briefs are due to be filed. The case is being heard in the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee.