South Florida Cities Suing State Over Law Prohibiting Them From Passing Gun Safety Laws

In Florida, local governments are prohibited from enacting gun rules that are stricter than state laws that already exist

What to Know

  • 10 cities from Broward and Miami-Dade counties are suing the state of Florida over a law preventing them from enacting tougher gun reforms.
  • The cities include Weston, Miramar, Coral Gables, South Miami and a half dozen more.
  • Florida law calls for cities to be fined if they pass their own gun law legislation, along with possible suspensions or terminations.

Ten cities from Broward and Miami-Dade counties are set to sue the state of Florida over a 2011 law preventing local governments from enacting their own restrictions on guns.

In Florida, local governments are prohibited from enacting gun rules that are stricter than state laws that already exist or face stiff penalties, including removal from office and a $5,000 fine paid from their personal funds. They also face the legal expenses from lawsuits filed by any person or group affected. 

Though a ban on passing local gun laws that are stronger than state ones has been in place since the 1980s, penalties targeting local officials were only added in 2011 with the help of the National Rifle Association, according to the Miami Herald. 

In the weeks after the Feb 14. massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, proposals for gun control measures by local officials, in defiance of the state law, have failed to pass because commissioners concede that the state sanctions are too severe.

Last week, an attempt to pass an ordiance in Coral Gables prohibiting the sale of any firearm "capable of fully automatic, semiautomatic or burst fire" was defeated. Officials who voted against the measure said they didn't want to expose Coral Gables to millions of dollars in legal fees, the Herald reported.

And in Weston, just 20 miles south of Parkland, Mayor Daniel Stermer is seeking to pass an ordinance that would prohibit guns on city-owned property. Weston city commissioners voted last week to file the lawsuit challenging the penalties and was joined by Miramar, Pompano and Lauderhill in Broward along with Miami-Dade cities Miami Gardens, South Miami, Pinecrest, Cutler Bay, Miami Beach and Coral Gables.

The suit, expected to be filed Monday, alleges that personal penalties for violating a law that preempts cities' ability to regulate guns are unconstitutional because it violates legislative immunity and separation of powers, infringes on freedom of speech and conflicts with the governor's limited power to remove local government officials, among other things. It names Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi as defendants. 

The suit comes nearly two weeks after Scott signed a contentious bill that raised the age limit to buy firearms to 21 from 18, banned the sale and possession of bump stocks, and created a mandatory waiting period for gun purchases.

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