Judge Rules Penalties Against Local Officials for Violating State Gun Regulation Preemption are Unconstitutional
July 29, 2019 — The Honorable Charles Dodson, Leon County Circuit Court Judge, has ruled in favor of the City of Fort Lauderdale along with 29 other municipalities, three counties, and more than 70 elected officials who challenged the constitutionality of civil penalties and removal provisions against local lawmakers who attempt to implement gun safety regulations.
The case stems from a 2011 amendment the Florida Legislature made to Section 790.33 of the Florida Statutes, which preempts local governments from regulating the field of firearms and ammunition. The amendment added civil penalties, including fines of up to $5,000 and removal from office by the Governor.
“This is a great day for local government. Elected officials in cities and counties across Florida will no longer be handcuffed by the threat of monetary fines or removal from office. Instead, we will be able to explore common sense policies in line with the state statute to take head-on the threat of gun violence to protect the safety and security of our residents,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean J. Trantalis. “I would like to personally thank lead attorney Jamie Cole and all the cities, counties, and elected officials who joined us in this successful effort to remove these irresponsible penalties and provisions.”
In his ruling in City of Weston, et al v. The Honorable Ron DeSantis, Judge Dodson granted the Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and held that, as a matter of law, the penalty provisions added in 2011 by the Florida Legislature are unconstitutional and thereby stricken. In the decision, the court found that local legislators are protected by legislative immunity under both the Florida Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, the court ruled that the penalty provisions “violate the immunity for discretionary governmental functions” and that the provision granting the Governor the power to remove elected officials from office conflicts with those procedures already contained in the Florida Constitution.
The Court further declared and reaffirmed that local governments, with some limitations, may establish policies related to firearms in their capacities as employers and proprietors.