Attorneys for and against a Florida law allowing for state removal of local officials who pass laws limiting gun rights argued their case before a Tallahassee appeals court yesterday. 

 Florida Democrats describe the law as an “unnecessary and unconstitutional overreach,” and one that the appeals court should reject because it threatens tough penalties for local elected officials who approve gun regulations.  

Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson sided with local governments against the gun law in July of 2019. He addressed a concern for protecting governmental officials in their decision-making processes with a “legislative immunity”. 

“Because local governments must have what amount to small legislatures, and because courts cannot interfere in legislative processes, neither this court, nor any other court in Florida, can enforce the civil penalty provisions (of the law) against local legislators,” Dodson said. 

The 2011 law was intended to reduce gun restrictions by local governments by adding penalties, such as the possibility of local officials facing hefty fines and potential removal from office for restricting gun rights. 

The law has been challenged thus far by thirty cities, three counties and more than seventy elected officials. These cities include Miami beach, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Gainesville, and now Tallahassee.

Democrat lawmakers have long opposed the law.

“Local elected officials have not just a right, but a responsibility to speak up and advocate for common sense gun reforms in their communities and should be able to do so without fear of penalty or punishment,” said State Rep. Dan Daley, a Democrat who helped challenge the 2011 law. 

 Lawyers for Attorney General Ashley Moody and Gov. Ron DeSantis took the case to the Tallahassee-based 1st District Court of Appeals, and in a brief last month, cited a “hierarchical relationship” between state and local governments and pointed out the Florida Constitution “subjugates local governments’ authority to that of the Florida Legislature.”

 The National Rifle Association, which lobbied for the 2011 law, filed a brief stating that the law should be upheld.  

Leon County Commissioners Bryan Desloge, Kristin Dozier, Lindley, Jimbo Jackson, Nick Maddox, and Bill Proctor had a hearing regarding the gun law last night at 6 pm on the fifth floor of the Leon County Courthouse. 

The Leon County commissioners signed off on an ordinance that will introduce a three-day waiting period and background checks for all private gun sales on publicly accessible property. 

The commissioners voted 6-1 in favor of the ordinance, with commissioner Bryan Desloge, the only Republican on the board, casting the only no vote. 

Commissioners and their legal staff believe that under the Florida Constitution they are good to move forward, however, the NRA’s lead lobbyist in Florida, Marion Hammer told Commissioner Delsoge in an email prior to the hearing that the commissioners should be concerned about violating a 2011 statute that prevents local governments from enacting their own gun control measures. 

“I have on good authority that Florida Carry, Inc. intends to file a lawsuit against individual commissioners and the county if the ordinance passes,” said Hammer. 

Eric Friday, general counsel for Florida Carry confirmed that the organization would file a lawsuit against the county if the ordinance is approved.

Already, gun control is a major issue in the upcoming session. There have been ten bills filed already, three by Republicans and seven by Democrats, including three Democrats who represent Broward county, home to Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. A gunman opened fire at the high school on Valentine’s Day 2018, killing seventeen and wounding seventeen others. 

Gun legislation in Tallahassee is split along partisan lines. Local government and state government have opposing perspectives towards the Florida Gun Law.