By: Raul Mas Canosa
Three years ago, I challenged an attempt by the Mayor of Coral Gables to pass a local ordinance banning “assault weapons” in my city. I hired an attorney and threatened to sue them if they did so because the State of Florida legislature has reserved for themselves the entire field of firearms and ammunition regulation. Municipalities cannot pass stronger laws than those passed in Tallahassee. If they do, local officials are subject to removal and personal financial penalties.
The Coral Gables City Commission voted down the Mayor’s proposed ban because they knew I would follow through with my threat. I had appeared before them with my attorney–and the lawsuit– ready to go.
However, in order to mollify the Mayor, the City Commission agreed to pursue a very costly lawsuit against the state questioning the law and specifically the sanctions against local officials. More than a dozen local municipalities in Miami-Dade and Broward County joined in the lawsuit. The first judge to hear the case ruled in favor of Florida’s supremacy with regards to gun legislation…but called the penalties of local officials unconstitutional. The State of Florida decided to appeal that decision.
Now, years later, Florida’s District Court of Appeals has ruled fully in favor of the State of Florida. The decision of the three-judge panel was pretty clear and concise:
“We hold that neither discretionary-function nor legislative immunity shields local governments and officials from the challenged statutes. We hold that these statutes are valid and enforceable. We reverse the judgment on appeal as stated herein.”
A copy of the court’s decision can be downloaded from this ink which is the only news article I could find mentioning the decision:
Regardless of how you feel about guns, local officials can’t contravene state law. It is that simple.
I hope the new leaders of Coral Gables learn from this. I also wonder how many hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been used to pursue Raul Valdes-Fauli’s quixotic legal battle. The outside lawyers retained by the city weren’t working pro bono. I am sure they pocketed a lot of money. I also wonder whether the other municipalities who joined in the lawsuit will chip in to pay for the legal expenses.
These are all legitimate questions and I wonder if anybody will ask them.