Case sc21-917. The Florida Supreme Court on Jan. 19 upheld a state law banning local governments from implementing restrictions on the sale of guns and ammunition.
Under Florida law passed in 1987, cities and counties are not allowed to create restrictions on guns that are stricter than state law, also known as “preemption” of local gun laws. Those who do risk stiff penalties of up to $5,000 under a 2011 addition to the law, while those harmed by the unlawful ordinance can sue the local governmnent for up to $100,000 in damages.
Lawsuits against the penalties were filed by cities and counties from various parts of the state, such as Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach, Orlando, Tallahassee, Gainesville, and St. Petersburg following the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left I7 dead.
The lawsuit, led by the city of Weston in Broward County, Florida, did not challenge the underlying I987 law but the penalties added in 201I. “Without immunity from liability, officials and localities are understandably likely to refrain from acting on matters they reasonably believe are both permissible and in the interest of their constituents, for fear of professional and financial ruin if it is later determined their belief was mistaken” the plaintiffs argued.
But in a 4-I ruling on Thursday, the court said that local officials will not be exempt from facing stiff penalties if they attempt to implement restrictions that go beyond state law. In their 30-page opinion (pdf), the court stated that “the imposition of these civil statutory actions for violations of the (1987) preemption statute does not violate governmental function immunity.”
“It is not a core municipal function to occupy an area that the Legislature has preempted, and local governments have no lawful discretion or authority to enact ordinances that violate state preemption,” the court wrote.