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: 96677

Reported Deaths: 2911
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7143160
DeSoto559460
Harrison388374
Jackson350570
Madison331089
Rankin330679
Lee273670
Forrest248973
Jones248779
Washington225977
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Lauderdale2059125
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Oktibbeha179952
Lamar171635
Lowndes158058
Neshoba1579104
Panola149930
Sunflower147146
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Warren140750
Pontotoc127816
Pike124051
Monroe123568
Copiah119133
Scott117627
Coahoma116329
Marshall110617
Lincoln110253
Holmes109859
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Yazoo106230
Simpson104646
Tate100437
Union99824
Leake96038
Adams94137
Wayne90421
Pearl River89253
Marion86535
Prentiss86217
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Alcorn82011
George78013
Tallahatchie77321
Newton77224
Winston74219
Tishomingo69038
Chickasaw68424
Tippah67117
Attala66725
Walthall60126
Clarke60046
Clay59518
Hancock58722
Jasper57515
Noxubee55116
Smith53415
Calhoun52112
Tunica49715
Claiborne46516
Montgomery46420
Yalobusha43514
Lawrence43313
Perry42419
Greene38817
Humphreys37715
Quitman3775
Stone37412
Jefferson Davis34211
Webster33813
Amite33210
Carroll31912
Wilkinson30518
Kemper29015
Sharkey26613
Jefferson2439
Benton2273
Franklin1933
Choctaw1866
Issaquena1053
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19676351
Mobile13373292
Montgomery8834184
Tuscaloosa8621118
Madison788178
Shelby597849
Lee589760
Baldwin547750
Marshall394343
Calhoun351544
Etowah349045
Morgan329228
Houston290321
Elmore266748
DeKalb241621
St. Clair232235
Walker231684
Talladega216629
Limestone210120
Cullman189920
Dallas179026
Franklin177129
Autauga176425
Russell17603
Lauderdale171333
Colbert164626
Blount161115
Escambia160824
Chilton158530
Jackson157511
Covington140127
Dale138644
Coffee13486
Pike119810
Chambers116442
Tallapoosa116085
Clarke109116
Marion96429
Butler91239
Barbour8827
Winston74412
Marengo72020
Pickens66214
Bibb65410
Lowndes65327
Randolph64713
Hale63528
Geneva6254
Lawrence62023
Cherokee60813
Bullock60414
Monroe5898
Clay5858
Washington55713
Perry5416
Crenshaw53732
Conecuh53511
Wilcox53111
Henry5055
Macon48018
Fayette4578
Sumter43819
Cleburne3805
Lamar3672
Choctaw34712
Greene30315
Coosa1713
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