A lawsuit against Florida state officials aimed at removing roadblocks that stop local governments implementing their own gun laws is gaining momentum.
Twenty municipalities and 61 elected officials have now joined the litigation as plaintiffs against the state government, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pamela Jo Bondi, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam, state Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen, Auditor General Sherrill Norman and Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
Their suit comes in the wake of two Florida mass shootings that drew global attention and sparked debates about gun-control and ownership rights under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It follows the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 dead, and the June 2016 massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, where a gunman killed 49 people.
“Municipalities and elected officials from across the state—in urban, suburban and rural communities—have all joined the fight to protect the home rule authority of local governments, and to reflect the passion of their residents,” said lead attorney Jamie Cole, managing director of Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman.
“The state system is one-size-fits-all. The same rules apply in an urban area like downtown Miami, a suburban area like Weston and an agricultural area like Central Florida,” he added. “We think that that residents in their own community should be able to have stricter rules regarding firearms within constitutional bounds, if they believe the conditions in their city justify such rules.”
The state Attorney General;s office, which is defending the lawsuit, declined comment, citing a policy that prevents commenting on ongoing litigation.
Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint to an April suit by 10 South Florida cities: Weston, Miramar, Pompano Beach, Pinecrest, South Miami, Miami Gardens, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Cutler Bay and Lauderhill. They initially included 31 elected officials. Their plaintiff list has since doubled, with Boca Raton, Surfside, Tallahassee, North Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Gainesville, St. Petersburg, Maitland and Key Biscayne signing on to the complaint filed in Leon Circuit Court. Another 30 politicians also joined the fray.
The plainitffs hope to persuade the court to invalidate a slew of penalties provided under state law to punish local government officials who pass local gun regulations.
Florida’s legislature enacted provisions in 2011 that remove elected officials from office without a hearing, fine them up to $5,000, and allows unlimited lawsuits against municipalities by plaintiffs who claim local gun regulations impinge on their constitutional rights.
““The law, with all these penalties, has effectively chilled elected officials from taking any action on firearms,” Cole said. ”This is a unique and unprecedented act to remove from office and penalize local officials, just because they vote a certain way.”