The city commissioners of Coral Gables are playing with fire.
They are implementing their own “assault weapon” ban, in addition to a ban on standard-capacity magazines.
There’s a catch — a massive one.
Florida’s powerful preemption statute clearly states that only the legislature has the authority to regulate firearms.
The law was designed to prevent the state from becoming a patchwork of fiefdoms, each with its own set of gun laws enacted by county or city commissions such as Coral Gables.
The law has teeth.
Any public employee who violates the preemption statute can be fined $5,000, which the statute requires them to pay personally — taxpayer dollars cannot be used. If the violator is an elected official, like the Coral Gables city commissioners, they can be removed from office.
Sarasota’s city commission flirted with the idea of an “assault weapons” ban in 2016, led by city manager Tom Barwin.
Barwin learned a hard lesson, after being told by the city attorney of the consequences he and the commissioners faced for such foolishness. The ban idea went away. Barwin and the commissioners looked foolish.
It appears that the Coral Gables city commissioners already know that consequences, and it appears they’re spoiling for a fight. In fact, it appears they’re daring the state to do something.
“This is more important than us keeping our jobs,” said Commissioner Frank Quesada told the Miami Herald. “Could we possibly be one cog or one domino in the process of improving the safety of kids throughout the state of Florida? I think the answer is yes.”
Last night, the city commission unanimously passed a “ban on military-style rifles,” even though the city attorney strongly objected.
Then, Commissioner Dan Daley introduced his own resolution “to limit the sale or transfer of large capacity magazines in the city.”
That’s all that’s needed — the commissioners’ actions are the legal equivalent of firing of Ft. Sumter.
The war has begun.
The commissioners have already lined up their own legal team in preparation for the coming legal tsunami.
“Everytown for Gun Safety’s Litigation Team, along with Proskauer LLP, will represent Commissioner Daley and potentially others in any resulting litigation,” according to a press release from Everytown.
“We believe the punitive aspects of Florida’s firearms preemption law – which threaten to punish local elected officials and cities for trying to do their job to protect their communities – violate long-standing principles of legislative immunity and other legal and constitutional protections. We are pleased to have been asked to work on this important legal issue. If and when the Coral Springs City Commission authorizes a court challenge to Florida’s firearms preemption law, we are happy to be able to offer our legal services and expertise on a pro bono basis along with the Proskauer law firm,” Eric Tirschwell, director of litigation for Everytown for Gun Safety said in the press release.
In my humble opinion, Gov. Rick Scott has little choice. He cannot allow a municipality to flout the law, regardless of how full his plate has become lately.
The governor and the attorney general have to act.
The entire city commission of Coral Gables just broke the law.