South Florida cities challenge gun preemption

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Elected officials from 10 South Florida cities are challenging an NRA-backed state law that imposes strict penalties on local lawmakers -- including removal from office and hefty fines -- for enacting gun ordinances.

The cities -- Weston, Coral Gables, Cutler Bay, Lauderhill, Miami Beach, Miami Gardens, Miramar, Pinecrest, Pompano Beach and South Miami -- are asking a judge to toss out a 2011 law that imposes a $5,000 fine on local government officials who create gun rules that exceed statewide restrictions. Under the law, the officials could also be ousted from office for the gun ordinances.

Weston Mayor Daniel Stermer invited invites “every municipal and county official” to join the challenge, filed in Leon County circuit court Monday.

“This lawsuit impacts each and every one of us that holds office,” Stermer said. “The onerous penalties that exist in this statute … exit nowhere else in Florida statutes.”

Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and other statewide officials, including Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen, are among the defendants named in the lawsuit, headed by the city of Weston.

Scott’s office is reviewing the lawsuit, a spokesman for the governor said. Bondi’s office said she had “not yet been served” in the case.

The lawsuit contends the 2011 law in part violates constitutional limitations on gubernatorial authority with respect to municipal officers, conflicts with the right of elected officials to legislative immunity, and are “overbroad, in violation of local officials’ free speech rights.”

“These onerous penalties are vindictive and expressly intended to be punitive in nature,” lawyer Jamie Cole of the Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman law firm and other attorneys representing the cities wrote in the 45-page complaint.