A Florida law penalizing local government officials who experiment with new city or county gun regulations was upheld by the state Supreme Court Thursday.
The high court, in a 5-1 ruling, preserved a 2011 state law imposing $5,000 fines on local officials that intentionally pass or enforce gun regulations not enacted by the state Legislature. The law allows private citizens to bring suits enforcing the law, and limits officials’ use of public funds to defend themselves in these cases.
The decision forecloses Democratic leaders of Florida local governments from experimenting with gun rules in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s 2022 New York Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen decision which has led to expanded blue-state regulation of firearms in “sensitive places.”
Dozens of local governments and officials claimed the state’s fine and fee-shifting provisions—the losing official pays the plaintiffs’ attorney fees—violated the Florida Constitution’s powers granted to local government and immunity given to lawmakers. The majority opinion, written by Justice Ricky Polston, said the state Legislature had the power to limit local officials’ immunity.
Ruling otherwise would “frustrate the ability of the Legislature to set policies for the state,” Polston said.
In a dissent, Justice Jorge Labarga said that the ruling incorrectly places judges in the shoes of legislators and forces courts to analyze their intent, amounting to “nothing less than an impermissible judicial intrusion into the official’s legislative thought process.”
Everytown for Gun Safety advocates for background checks and other gun control measures. Michael Bloomberg, the majority owner of Bloomberg Government’s parent company, serves as a member of Everytown’s advisory board.
The cases are Fried v. Florida, Fla., No. SC21-917, 1/19/23 and City of Weston v. Florida, Fla., No. SC21-918, 1/19/23.
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