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Florida Court Rules Local Officials Cannot be Punished for Violating Firearm Preemption Law

By: D.J. Parten

Anti-gun officials in Florida saw a major victory in court last Friday when Judge Charles Dodson declared the enforcement provision of the state’s firearm preemption law unconstitutional.

In 1987, Florida enacted a law that prevents any county, city, town, or municipality from enacting any ordinances that would regulate firearms and ammunition. That law is commonly referred to as “preemption.”

Twenty-four years later, the legislature amended that statute to allow a public official who violates the law to be held personally liable and subject to a fine.

According to the anti-gun publication The Trace, 44 states have enacted similar preemption laws.

These laws are designed to ensure uniform gun laws throughout a state, so that law-abiding gun owners will not become entangled in a web of legal confusion, but gun control advocates see these laws as an assault on the discretion of local lawmakers.

Florida’s preemption law came under fire in 2018 when local officials across the state realized they could not pass gun control without facing hefty fines.

In the case decided on July 26, Dobson determined that the punishment for those local officials could not be enforced. He also determined that the law allowing the governor to remove a local official from office for violating the preemption law was unconstitutional as well.

Now that the fines are no longer an obstacle for these anti-gun politicians, they are free to violate state preemption and enforce as much gun control as they like without facing any consequences.

Dobson’s decision, however, did not get rid of the underlying preemption law, which means that local gun control ordinances can still be overturned once the state takes the local government to court with taxpayers’ money.

Thankfully, the ultimate punishment for bad local officials is still in place: citizens still have the right to challenge those officials at the ballot box, and nothing makes a politician more uncomfortable than angry voters.

D.J. Parten is executive director of Florida Gun Rights.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.