Seeking the authority to regulate firearms in parks and government buildings, Fort Lauderdale and Broward County have joined the fight to bring down one of the state's most baffling gun laws.
The law, which went into effect in October of 2011, empowered the state to issue fines against any county, city, or local government that enforces its own firearms laws. It also gave Governor Rick Scott the power to remove from office local elected officials who "knowingly and willfully violate" the law.
"...You would think that might occur in some dictatorship," Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "It's outrageous that the state would intervene in local business at that level."
Neutering all existing local firearms laws created awkward ramifications. It's now permissible to bring a semi-automatic weapon to a Fort Lauderdale family parade, though illegal to bring a knife. In Tallahassee, where irate citizens occasionally have to be removed from capitol building committee rooms, security at Capitol offices are no longer allowed to ask visitors to secure their firearms. (The Florida Senate installed panic buttons on every legislator's phone, then claimed it was a coincidence.) Gun bans in public parks were immediately wiped, a huge sticking point for local officials.
And there can no longer be a difference between the gun laws that govern rural farming communities and those for, say, Miami's crime-ridden urban core.
"To those of us who think there might be common sense approaches to safety, Florida's not the friendliest place for that to happen," Pafford observed.
Fort Lauderdale recently joined nearby Weston in trying to gather support to fight the law in the League of Cities, according to the Sun Sentinel. And the Palm Beach Post reports Broward County has joined a Palm Beach County lawsuit against the state.
“It’s political bullying by threatening the personal pockets of individual commissioners," Palm Beach Senior Assistant County Attorney Amy Petrick, who filed the suit against Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida House and Senate, told the Post.
It's also a question of safety, officials argue. Freshman Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, is trying another route. In January he introduced a bill that would override the state's law by banning permitted concealed weapons from a "public sanctioned or sponsored recreation, concert, or sporting event conducted in a public building or at a government-sponsored outdoor public venue."
"We’re not saying people shouldn’t have guns," Powell told the Post. "What I am saying is that, in certain places, guns should not be allowed."
As the New York Times has pointed out, the law, though pushed through by a conservative legislature, runs counter to the GOP's esteem for local control.
"This is legislation I could never support," said Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City) of Powell's bill, telling the News Herald that allowing local communities to create their own laws for concealed weapons doesn't conform to the spirit of the second amendment. "I like the way the laws are written."
The South Florida lawmakers fighting for more control disagree. The Sun Sentinel reports Rep. Jim Waldman (D-Coconut Creek) and Sen. Jeremy Ring (D-Margate) are preparing to file bills that would completely repeal the state law.
"I do think it's a debate that the time is here, it's now," Waldman said. "We ought to discuss it. Certainly Newtown brought it to the forefront."