Florida since 1987 has barred cities and counties from passing regulations that are stricter than state firearms laws, and the penalties in the 2011 law were designed to strengthen that “preemption.” The law, for example, could lead to local officials facing $5,000 fines and potential removal from office for passing gun regulations.
Local governments and officials filed three lawsuits challenging the 2011 law after the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 people. The lawsuits were ultimately consolidated in Leon County circuit court.
The local governments and officials did not challenge the underlying 1987 preemption law but contended the penalties in the 2011 law were unconstitutional. Friday’s ruling focused on arguments that the 2011 law should be rejected because of two legal concepts known as “government function immunity” and “legislative immunity.”
Judge Susan Kelsey, writing for the appellate panel, rejected the arguments and pointed to the state’s “superior authority in this context.”
“Taken together, Florida’s Constitution and statutes limit counties’ and municipalities’ powers of self-government by requiring consistency with legislatively-enacted general and special laws,” Kelsey wrote in a 14-page opinion joined by Chief Judge Stephanie Ray and Judge Brad Thomas. “As the trial court correctly noted and appellees (the local governments and officials) do not dispute, the Florida Legislature likewise is authorized to enact general laws preempting all regulation in an area of the law. As this case illustrates, the Legislature has exercised its preemption authority with respect to firearms and ammunition.”
— Jim Saunders in Florida appeals court upholds law on local gun regulations