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The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments over penalties for local gun restrictions

The Leon County Courthouse
WFSU Public Media
The Leon County Courthouse

The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments Thursday morning in a challenge to a 2011 state law surrounding guns. Leon County government is part of that case.

A preemption law passed in 1987 says municipalities cannot have gun regulations stricter than those passed by the state. The 2011 law boosted penalties for such occurrences. It includes language that allows local leaders to be fined and even removed from office for enforcing such policies.

The City of Tallahassee was sued in 2014 by gun rights groups over two ordinances that were no longer being enforced but had not been repealed. An appeals court sided with the City but did not rule the preemption law unconstitutional.

Individuals and municipalities are challenging the penalties, alleging the 2011 law violates a type of legal immunity granted to local leaders and governments. The law was struck down by a Leon County circuit judge in 2019. Last year, an appeals court overturned the judge’s ruling.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a gubernatorial candidate and the only statewide elected Democrat, is a plaintiff in the latest legal challenge. Prior to Fried taking office in 2019, the agriculture department was a defendant in the case.

We sent interview requests to Leon County and Tallahassee leaders. We received one written statement due to pending arguments. Here is part of that statement from Leon County Commission Chairman Bill Proctor:

“So-called pre-emptive power is synonymous to Republicans who seek to sanitize and eliminate Black and Brown elected leaders.

Pre-emption rules are unconstitutionally vague and formless. These rules lack clear due process of appeals truly independent to review punishment against targeted officials. Must elected officials (be) forced to pay their own legal bills while performing their legislative roles of public policy making???

This Republican measure is arbitrary, capricious, racist and political to its core. If state pre-emption carries forth, then the first amendment for local officials would be reduced to mere toilet paper.”

~Chairman Bill Proctor, Leon County District 1 Commissioner

*Updated for clarity: Interview requests were sent to city and county communications managers. The only comments we received were from Commissioner Proctor, and the comments were in writing due to the pending legal arguments.

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Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. She left after a few years to spend more time with her son, working part-time as the capital reporter/producer for WLRN Public Media in Miami and as a drama teacher at Young Actors Theatre. She also blogged and reported for StateImpact Florida, an NPR education project, and produced podcasts and articles for AVISIAN Publishing. Gina has won awards for features, breaking news coverage, and newscasts from contests including the Associated Press, Green Eyeshade, and Murrow Awards. Gina is on the Florida Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors. Gina is thrilled to be back at WFSU! In her free time, she likes to read, travel, and watch her son play football. Follow Gina Jordan on Twitter: @hearyourthought