Opinion: Coral Gables Loses A Legal Battle And Taxpayers Are Left Holding The Bill

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:

https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/2021/04/09/florida-appeals-court-upholds-law-on-local-gun-regulations/

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.

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14 thoughts on “Opinion: Coral Gables Loses A Legal Battle And Taxpayers Are Left Holding The Bill

  1. Re David Walsh’s comment below: the Mayor was not “seeking clarification”. This is a gross misrepresentation. He was on an anti-gun, costly virtue-signaling mission after the Marjorie S Douglas school shooting. He sought to overrule a decades -long-standing Constitutional State law ENSURING that municipalities did not exceed their authority in pursuing Unconstitutional efforts such that Valdez-Fauli pursued.

    Protecting us from the awful circumstances of a NYC, LA or DC. Our comparable, RELATIVE peace and safety are a direct result of our UNINFRINGED Second Amendment rights. The outgoing mayor sought to infringe them and was smacked down, thank God.

    As the appeals court stated:

    “….Appellees argue that entities adopting firearm or ammunition regulations stricter than the Legislature’s are properly exercising their rights to discretion in governance, and that immunity derived from the separation of powers doctrine shields the exercise of that discretion,” Kelsey wrote. “The trial court accepted this reasoning, but we reject it.”​

  2. Litigating against the state on preemption is a central and arguably necessary function of a well-run municipality. Here, the City Commission and the Mayor – elected representatives – sought clarification on an issue of obvious importance. They got it.

    Your qualm here is weakly veiled partisanship. Imagine if the state regulated firearms heavily and Coral Gables tried to pare back those regulations. Would you take issue with the city trying to litigate around preemption then? Clearly not – nor should anyone, regardless of their politics. This is what municipalities do.

  3. You sir are a patriot. And i hope and trust that Mayor-elect Lago hears you and this verdict loud and clear and walks away from such costly , fruitless and frankly unconstitutional efforts grounded in virtue-signaling and ignorance.

    I have lived in Coral Gables for many years and there is no such thing as home invasions in my neighborhood and i firmly believe that at the right to bear arms and the knowledge that many , if not most , of us are well-armed provides an excellent and proven deterrent.

    Mayor Valdez-Fauli seems to have missed the lesson of the gun confiscations and lack of a Second Amendment in his native Cuba. He wasted taxpayer dollars in his foolhardy lawsuit. Good riddance to him and his ilk

    Thank you for being a patriot.

  4. Ms. Ortega the opinion piece by Mr. Mas had nothing to do about bragging of any tragic deaths caused by firearms. He was advising of the suit he brought against Coral Gables for their unconstitutional over reach and what the outcome was leaving us tax payers on the hook for the cities publicity stunt. If you want to be an anti violence activist your more than welcome to go to cities like Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore to name a few. Those cities mentioned have the strictest gun laws yet the violence continues. The crime stats in Coral Gables do not support gun violence anywhere near or in comparison to those cities mentioned for a gun ordinance to even be considered in our city.

  5. Thank you Raul for helping to preserve our Second Amendment constitutional rights; I have lived in the Gables for over ten years and never even knew this gun grab was afoot. Too many people don’t realize that only the military has “assault weapons” and the 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with hunting.

  6. Once and for all, folks: the “AR” in AR15 does not stand for “assault rifle!!! It is the initials of the manufacturer, Armalite Industries.
    Re Bloated City Attorney’s office, Maria: Let’s not forget our Police Department’s private legal advisor, the Reyes Law Firm. How much are they being paid? I still remember when Reyes sent out in terrorem letters to residents, including GI editor

  7. So very sad that Jane resorted to personal attacks that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic. I guess she, or whoever that is behind that name, couldn’t deny the facts that the City, after spending lots of our money, LOST!
    Does anyone think that the lesson will be learned?

  8. I had a personal conversation with former Mayor Raul Valdes -Fauli about his passion to ban semiautomatic weapons in Coral Gables. He informed me that he wanted all semi automatic weapons banned. I tried to educate him that as a hunter I own a semi-automatic shotgun to hunt ducks, quail, and other water fowl. He was so ignorant that he did not even know semi-automatic shotguns even existed. In his mind any gun that is “semi automatic”, is a weapon to kill people. When hurricane iRMA hit Coral Gables, on my block people left, [Madeira Avenue], there was no power & NO CELL PHONE SERVICE. No one had access to to police. People that I had never seen were walking down my street with flash lights pointing into homes that were empty. When they pointed a flash light into my home [shot gun in my home never pointed at any one], I wondered what would happen if they tried to break into my house , with no police, no cell service?? Should i use harsh language, to persuade them to leave? All he kept saying was “call the police”. How was I supposed to do that scream from my back yard?? He had no response & walked away.

  9. Wow! Tragically bragging about all the deaths and injuries caused by firearms when his “threat” of lawsuit has nothing to do with it.

  10. Kudos to you, Raul, for preventing this unconstitutional gun grab!
    To second poster, coincidentally, I went yesterday to Inter Miami’s inaugural match. You should have seen the firepower around, both private security and off duty police! All to prevent access to the luminaries attending the game. Hence, “no guns needed” by the elite!
    How much would it cost the ordinary citizen to walk around surrounded by bodyguards?

  11. Thank you Raul for helping to preserve our Second Amendment constitutional rights!!

  12. To the first poster please stay on topic. Thank you Mr. Mas for fighting this unconstitutional gun grab. It is unfortunate that our tax dollars were used to
    Litigate this. Coral Gables claims to be a progressive city but their actions to pass an ordinance banning assault weapons on legal gun owners is anything but that. It’s called the bill of rights not the bill of feelings for a reason.

  13. Perhaps it is time to look at the City Attorney’s budget. Is it comparable to any City the size of ours? Number of in house attorneys? Number of consultants? Outside Counsels? Amount of money spent every year in litigation? Nature of litigations? Settlements? Amount of money paid out for them?
    By the way, does anyone know whatever happened with the investigation about the female officers and the pool party? Are they still waiting to be made whole?

  14. Progressive government always fails, and Raul Valdes-Fauli is a progressive ninny. Wake up Coral Gables!

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