Or­lando votes to join suit over guns

County might opt to chal­lenge state on lo­cal re­stric­tions

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Ryan Gille­spie and Steven Le­mon­gello Staff Writ­ers

Or­lando lead­ers voted Mon­day to join a law­suit against Gov. Rick Scott and other state of­fi­cials, chal­leng­ing Florida’s abil­ity to pun­ish lo­cal lead­ers from of­fi­cially con­sid­er­ing firearms reg­u­la­tion.

The City Coun­cil voted 6-1 — with Com­mis­sioner Jim Gray dis­sent­ing — to join the law­suit and gave as­sis­tant city at­tor­ney Kyle Shep­herd per­mis­sion to hire a law firm that al­ready is work­ing on the case for several other cities. City At­tor­ney Mayanne Downs said the suit asks for a judge to de­clare the state law un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Ja­cobs also is con­sid­er­ing join­ing the law­suit and has asked County At­tor­ney Jeff New­ton to re­view the case, ac­cord­ing to a let­ter sent to the Orange County Com­mis­sion on April 5. Ja­cobs also asked New­ton to draft an or­di­nance that would re­in­state a

three-day wait­ing pe­riod on firearm pur­chases that the county had re­pealed in 2011 to avoid “dra­co­nian penal­ties” from the state.

“It’s one thing to pre­empt a lo­cal govern­ment from tak­ing ac­tion in a spe­cific area; it’s an­other to try and pe­nal­ize lo­cal govern­ment of­fi­cials from act­ing in their of­fi­cial re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said. “That’s sim­ply not ap­pro­pri­ate, nor is it con­sti­tu­tional.”

The is­sue has come to the fore­front since the Feb. 14 mass shoot­ing at a Park­land high school that killed 17 peo­ple. Cities are chal­leng­ing a statute that has been on the books since 2011 that cre­ates uni­form gun laws for the en­tire state and pe­nal­izes lo­cal of­fi­cials who try to en­act lo­cal gun laws.

The suit was filed this month in Leon County Cir­cuit Court by 10 South Florida cities in­clud­ing We­ston, Mi­ra­mar, Mi­ami Beach and Cut­ler Bay. Last week, Tal­la­has­see chose to join the suit.

Dyer said the time is right to make a stand be­fore leg­is­la­tors opt to im­pose penal­ties for lo­cal of­fi­cials who pro­pose other laws that con­flict with state rules.

The 2011 law im­ple­mented fines up to $5,000 on elected of­fi­cials who vi­o­lated the law and al­lows the gover­nor’s of­fice to re­move that per­son from of­fice. The state also can fine a govern­ment up to $100,000; the law doesn’t al­low govern­ment funds to be used to de­fend an of­fi­cial in court.

“They def­i­nitely went too far with the penal­ties,” Dyer said.

Downs said the statute cre­ated a “long list of chill­ing penal­ties” for all pub­lic

of­fi­cials but also doesn’t pre­empt ev­ery­thing. She said even zon­ing cases in­volv­ing gun shops be­come dif­fi­cult to man­age un­der the law.

Scott spokesman McKin­ley Lewis said the gover­nor’s of­fice is re­view­ing the law­suit.

“But the Gover­nor’s top pri­or­ity has al­ways been pro­tect­ing the safety of our stu­dents and com­mu­ni­ties,” Lewis said. “That’s why Gover­nor Scott pro­posed and then signed ma­jor leg­is­la­tion that strength­ens school se­cu­rity and keeps firearms out of the hands of those with men­tal ill­ness dur­ing the last leg­isla­tive ses­sion.”

Com­mis­sioner Gray ar­gued that the city should “stay in our lane” and not in­ter­fere with state busi­ness, af­ter lo­cal of­fi­cials had been out­spo­ken in de­fend­ing “home rule” dur­ing this year’s leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

“We don’t con­trol guns. I wish we did, but we don’t,” Gray said in the meet­ing. “This to me is more aes­thetic, win­dow dress­ing, grand­stand­ing, what­ever you want to call it.”

Com­mis­sioner Patty Shee­han said that af­ter 49 peo­ple were killed at Pulse night­club in 2016, she asked the city’s le­gal de­part­ment about the abil­ity to pass gun-con­trol mea­sures lo­cally but was told they could not, be­cause of the state law.

“We shouldn’t have to live in fear … be­cause of firearm pre­emp­tions,” Shee­han said in the meet­ing. “I’m so sad that this had to hap­pen to some­one else … we have to do some­thing.”

Ja­cobs could not be reached for com­ment about the law­suit or the pro­posed county or­di­nance.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.