July 27, 2020
By Mark Chesnut
Like many states, Florida has a strong firearms preemption law designed to keep municipalities from passing more restrictive gun laws than the state observes. Such laws are very important, since cities passing their own gun-control statues could result in a confusing patchwork of different laws that would be nearly impossible for law-abiding gun owners to navigate.
Unfortunately, an ongoing court case could render the preemption law useless, paving the way for just such a problem for law-abiding Florida gun owners.
The state’s First District Court of Appeals ruled about a year ago that the law was unconstitutional. The state immediately appealed the ruling, and arguments are now underway in the appeals case.
As my former long-time associate Cam Edwards mentioned recently over at BearingArms.com, in courtroom recently, Edward Guedes, an attorney representing the elected officials who filed the original suit nearly a decade ago, argued that local lawmakers should have “absolute legislative immunity” for their official actions—an unbelievable contention to most.
During the hearing, Judge Brad Thomas questioned Guedes’ contentions: “Let’s go back to my hypothetical, where the local government knowingly passes and ordinance in violation of state law, imposes a 60-day potential jail time on a citizen, a citizen is arrested and put in jail under a county ordinance that was clearly preempted,” Thomas said. “Does the legislature not have a right to prevent that kind of evil?”
Guedes replied: “Not at the expense of constitutional principles.”
It’s not hard to see how dangerous such a notion is, since it would let any municipality or county pass any restrictive gun law it chooses, even if those passing the law know it violates state law. They could even jail a law-abiding gun owner for violating that statues, yet those same decision-makers would be immune from any type of legal action.
Florida gun owners can only hope that the state prevails and the firearms preemption law is recognized for what it is—a way to ensure petty local politicians don’t tread on the Second Amendment rights of Florida citizens. We’ll keep you posted as the case progresses.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.