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Florida cities sue state government for permission to enact their own gun control laws

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Activists hold up signs as they march for gun reform legislation on Feb. 26 in Tallahassee, Florida. A new lawsuit seeks to allow local governments to enact their own gun control legislation. (Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

Ten cities and 31 elected officials in Florida have filed a lawsuit against a state law forbidding local governments from enacting their own gun control measures. Currently, members of local governments who try to pass measures on their own will be penalized by a fine of up to $5,000 and potentially with removal from office.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi have been named in the lawsuit, as well as four other state officials.

This year, Scott has managed to get sued by plaintiffs on both sides of the gun debate. Last month, the National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit of its own against the state government of Florida, claiming that a law signed by the governor to raise the legal gun purchasing age to 21 violated the Second Amendment.

Here’s what the lawsuit involves:

The lawsuit calls the penalties outlined in the state law “onerous, unconstitutional, and unprecedented.” The governor’s office is currently reviewing the lawsuit, according to the Miami Herald. It also demands a declaration “that the provisions for punishing elected officials” who violate the state law “are invalid.”

The cities filing this lawsuit say that they are doing this in reaction to the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Four of the cities involved in the lawsuit (Pompano Beach, Lauderhill, Weston and Miramar) are from Broward County, the same county as Parkland. The other six (Miami Gardens, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, South Miami, Pinecrest, and Cutler Bay) are in Miami-Dade County. The city of Weston started the lawsuit, then convinced the other cities to join in.

Here’s what supporters of the lawsuit are saying:

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit argue that local governments are the best equipped to determine what gun control measures are best for their regions.

“In an urban area like downtown Miami, the situation is different from a suburban area like here in the City of Weston or somewhere that could be rural or agricultural,” lead attorney on this lawsuit, Jamie Alan Cole, said.

Here’s what critics of the lawsuit are saying:

Supporters of the existing 2011 law point out that it clarified an older law that has been on the books since the 1980s, and specifies that some decisions should be left up to the state. The penalties, they say, keep local governments from ignoring the existing law altogether.

Gun control is only one of the issues regulated to the state government by the older law, which also included things like accident cleanup.

Marion Hammer, a former president of the NRA who now works as a lobbyist for the organization in Florida, told The News Service of Florida that the penalties stated in the law were reasonable.

“When they willfully and knowingly violate state law they have to be held accountable,” she said. “They remind me of disobedient children who whine about being punished for doing something they knew was wrong and were warned about the consequences. I personally don't think the penalties are severe enough.”

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