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Florida gun law can punish local officials personally

If local Florida officials want to pass firearm restrictions in response to the latest mass killing with ...

Posted: Feb 21, 2018 8:33 AM
Updated: Feb 21, 2018 8:33 AM

If local Florida officials want to pass firearm restrictions in response to the latest mass killing with an assault weapon, they risk being suspended from office, fined and sued personally for damages.

Nicholas Cruz, 19, killed 17 people last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ln Parkland, Florida, with an AR-15 rifle he purchased legally. The massacre has again pushed the gun control debate to the national forefront.

Florida has fewer rules about guns than some states, and a broad state statute gives the state sole authority to regulate firearms. It prohibits any local gun ordinances and allows for personal punishment of officials through fines of up to $5,000, lawsuits and removal from office.

Florida law also overrides local ordinances in other areas, such as the environment, but the gun rules are the only ones that allow sanctions against local officials personally, according to one mayor.

The law gets mixed reviews. Many in the law enforcement community like the uniformity of statewide rules. Some elected officials feel threatened.

"I'm a living testament," to the effect of the law, said Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat running for governor in a majority Republican state.

He was sued personally by gun advocates while still a city commissioner after voting against repealing an ordinance that banned shooting firearms in public parks. His defense costs were $200,000, but his lawyers worked pro bono.

"Basically, they are suppressing local governments from pushing back, which has a chilling effect," Gillum said.

The case ended in an appeals court ruling for Gillum and other city commissioners. The courts did not reach a conclusion on whether the state statute was overreaching.

Law enforcement groups such as the Florida Sheriffs Association support state gun control laws.

"Counties with 25 cities, it would be impossible to enforce" different ordinances, said sheriffs association President Mike Adkinson. "It would be confusing." He is the sheriff of Walton County, Florida.

Opponents of the law say it is the result of the heavy influence of Florida Carry, a gun rights group, the National Rifle Association and the gun industry.

Florida gun rights lawyer attorney Noel Flasterstein rejected that claim.

"How does the gun industry benefit?" said Flasterstein, consulting counsel for Florida Carry, which supports gun rights. "This statute is beautiful. It holds public officials accountable when they want to break the law."

South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard said the state imposes its authority on more issues than gun regulation. The state is "hell-bent on pre-empting municipalities," he said.

To push for more local control over guns or other issues such as environmental regulations "is setting off on a quixotic legal battle," he said.

Gov. Rick Scott's office did not return a call for comment.

While officials argue their points, some Florida residents have their own reaction to the tragedy. They are publicly destroying and disposing of their firearms.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 27900

Reported Deaths: 1082
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds215239
DeSoto137316
Madison122234
Jones106949
Neshoba96069
Lauderdale88278
Rankin84112
Forrest81442
Scott75015
Harrison7448
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Jackson53316
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Wayne52112
Washington4969
Lee49316
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Warren44317
Lincoln43534
Lamar4197
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Monroe36729
Pike36712
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Newton3289
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Panola2706
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Tate2577
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Marion24811
Pontotoc2476
Noxubee2458
Pearl River24432
Winston2435
Clay24210
Claiborne23610
Simpson2303
Smith20611
Clarke20124
Marshall2013
Coahoma1866
Kemper17614
Union1759
Walthall1724
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Carroll16011
Lawrence1591
Itawamba1278
Calhoun1244
Humphreys1239
Tippah12311
Webster12310
Montgomery1222
Hancock12013
Jefferson Davis1064
Tallahatchie1043
Prentiss983
Greene927
Jefferson923
Wilkinson919
Tunica893
Amite822
George743
Choctaw714
Quitman680
Tishomingo681
Perry614
Alcorn561
Stone521
Franklin382
Benton270
Sharkey240
Issaquena71
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 38442

Reported Deaths: 947
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4387142
Montgomery383999
Mobile3697134
Tuscaloosa204938
Marshall153710
Lee118937
Shelby108223
Madison10577
Morgan9813
Walker86723
Franklin85213
Dallas8198
Elmore81314
Baldwin6869
Etowah62513
Butler60427
DeKalb6025
Chambers58127
Tallapoosa56369
Autauga54511
Unassigned52025
Russell4840
Lowndes45820
Lauderdale4446
Houston4344
Limestone4090
Cullman4003
Pike3995
Colbert3685
Bullock3629
Coffee3532
Barbour3231
Covington3087
St. Clair3042
Hale29321
Marengo28611
Wilcox2808
Sumter27612
Calhoun2705
Talladega2677
Clarke2665
Escambia2636
Dale2440
Jackson2382
Winston2333
Blount2141
Chilton2112
Pickens2116
Marion20312
Monroe1972
Choctaw19212
Conecuh1804
Bibb1711
Macon1708
Randolph1709
Greene1667
Perry1451
Henry1303
Crenshaw1233
Lawrence1010
Washington1007
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Lamar711
Fayette671
Geneva670
Clay582
Coosa551
Cleburne291
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