Orlando City Council
- Photo via Michael Saechang/Flickr
voted 6-1 on Monday to join a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott and other Florida officials, challenging the 2011 state law
that punishes local leaders for enacting firearms regulation. The class-action lawsuit seeks to declare the state law unconstitutional.
That means Orlando is now the largest of 12 cities joining the suit, which was filed earlier this month in Leon County Circuit Court by 10 South Florida cities, including Weston, Miramar, Miami Beach and Cutler Bay, among others. Tallahassee joined the suit last week, too.
Orange County could fall in step with the city’s move, as Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs is considering joining the lawsuit as well. She has asked County Attorney Jeff Newton to review the case, according to a letter sent to the Orange County Commission on April 5. With that, Jacobs also asked Newton to draft an ordinance that would reinstate a three-day waiting period on firearm purchases, which was repealed by the county in 2011
to avoid penalties from the state following the legislation's passage.
“To provide penalties that include removal from office and civil fines of up to $5,000 for simply exercising your duty – your responsibility – that was given to you by the voters of our city, is certainly, in my estimation, unconstitutional,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said during the meeting, referring to the penalties local leaders face for enacting gun ordinances.
On top of the state's ability to remove city and county officials from office or issue a hefty fine, Florida state officials can also fine a local government up to $100,000 for enacting local measures against the law. The law also doesn't allow the use of government funds to defend a local official in court.
Sensing the political mortality that could come with a move like this on the city's part, not all those in attendance at Monday's meeting were enthused. Councilman Jim Gray, who was the lone no vote, told the council that the resolution could prove to be a disaster for local officials.
“The return on this investment isn’t a good one,” Gray said.
Commissioner Patty Sheehan said that following the massacre at the gay nightclub Pulse in 2016, she asked the city’s legal officials about the ability to pass gun control laws at the local level, but she was told that wasn't possible due to state law.
“We shouldn’t have to live in fear ... I’m so sad that this had to happen to someone else,” Sheehan said during the meeting, referring to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland
that left 17 dead and 17 injured. “We have to do something.”
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