Second Amendment win: Florida governor signs law that bans gun regulations by local governments

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TALLAHASSEE, FL – On Friday, May 7th, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a measure that will broaden a 2011 law that can make local governments pay as much as $100,000 in damages if they are sued for imposing gun regulations.

Before the bill, SB 1884, made its way to DeSantis’ desk, it was first passed in a party-line vote in the the Republican-controlled Legislature in April. The bill will reportedly take effect July 1, 2021.

Since 1987, Florida has barred cities and counties from passing regulations that are stricter than state firearm laws and the penalties in the 2011 law were designed to strengthen that “preemption.”

During an April 28th floor debate, Rep. Cord Byrd (R-Neptune Beach), who is the House sponsor of the bill, said that the measure is needed to protect Second Amendment rights. He said the bill is designed to “send a message” to local governments.

Byrd, who is also an attorney who represents gun owners, said in a statement:

“I brought this forward so that local governments will once and for all stop violating the rights and stop wasting taxpayer money.”

Democrats argued that cities and counties should not be punished for trying to curb gun violence and recounted incidents such as the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

During the deabate, Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando), said in a statement:

“If the state doesn’t want to take any action against the gun lobby, stop prohibiting local governments from doing that.”

DeSantis signed the bill nearly one month after a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld the 2011 law that threatens penalties if cities and counties approve gun regulations.

Reportedly, after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, which killed 17 people, dozens of local governments and officials had challenged the 2011 law. 

On April 23rd, attorneys for the local governments filed a motion requesting that the 1st District Court of Appeals send to the Supreme Court key issues in the case, a move known as certifying “questions of great public importance.”

According to an online docket, as of the morning of May 10th, the Tallahassee-based appeals court has not acted on that request. Under the 2011 law, local governments can be forced to pay up to $100,000 in damages and attorney fees if they are found to have violated the 1987 preemption on gun regulations.

Additionally, local officials could face $5,000 finds and potential removal from office for passing gun regulations. The bill that DeSantis just signed will broaden the bill in two ways.

The new measure will allow lawsuits for “unwritten” local policies that violate the gun-regulation preemption and local governments could still be forced to pay damages and attorney fees if they change gun-related ordinances or policies after lawsuits are filed.

A House staff analysis said that an example of “unwritten” policies that could be effected by the bill would be “oral instructions given within a law enforcement agency.”

DeSantis also recently issued an executive order that immediately suspended local government pandemic-related restrictions such as mask mandates. Considering the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, DeSantis said it was the “evidence-based thing to do.”

DeSantis signed a separate bill, SB 2006, which gives the governor the ability to override local emergency orders. This bill takes effect July 1st. DeSantis said the law is meant to ensure that officials in Florida, including the governor, do not inappropriately “seize power” and enact strict regulations like those in some parts of the country.

He said the executive orders he signed only apply to local government-mandated orders, not mask requirements or social distancing policies enforced by businesses.

He said in a statement:

“In terms of what a supermarket or some of them choose to do, a Disney theme park, this does not deal with that one way or another. It’s simply emergency orders and emergency penalties on individual businesses.”

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‘We’re funding the police and then some’: Gov. DeSantis announces $1K bonuses for first responders

May 6th, 2021

SATELLITE BEACH, FL – Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced that, unlike many states that are defunding police, Florida will be providing $1,000 bonus checks to every police officer, firefighter, paramedic, and emergency medical technician in the state.

Making the announcement from the Satellite Beach Police Department in Brevard County, Gov. DeSantis said:

“Some want to defund the police; we’re funding the police and then some, and that’s what we’re here today to say.”

In March, the governor proposed using money from Florida’s federal stimulus package to provide first responders with bonuses, saying they earned the financial boost with their work during the pandemic. The legislature agreed and passed the proposal.

At the press conference held Wednesday, DeSantis was joined by police officials from around the state who applauded the $1,000 bonuses.

DeSantis also commented on another piece of legislation passed in support of law enforcement. He applauded the state’s passage of the “Anti-Riot” Act, which places tougher penalties on protesters who engage in violent rallies.

He praised a provision in the “Anti-Riot” Act that prevents local governments from defunding police:

“There is a very strong provision in there that said, ‘We are not going to let local governments defund law enforcement.’

“We are going to make sure that at the state level, we protect our communities, and if you try to do it, we are going to fight back, and we are going to defend the people of this state.”

The Governor said that, beyond the “Anti-Riot” Act, he wanted to reward first responders for working through the pandemic at a time when many other people did not have to:

“The other thing that we fought for was the recognition that when the Coronavirus pandemic hit, you had some people, and I don’t begrudge them from doing this, but you had some people working for different companies or whatever, they would just work on Zoom from their bedroom or from their living room.

“Well, the people that wear the uniform did not have that luxury. They were out there every single day. Our police, our fire, our EMTs, they were out there every single day. They had to work more than they ever have.”

Gov. DeSantis said that police not only had to work during the pandemic keeping the country safe, but they had to face violence and hatred while doing so:

“(Police) not only had to deal with protecting us when the pandemic hit, but then, obviously, how the police were treated last year in many parts of the country which was a total disgrace.”

Recognizing the service the officers and other first responders provide to the community, the Governor asked the legislature to provide a bonus to them, saying Florida always has the back of law enforcement:

“They (police) had to put the uniform on. Yes, they knew the State of Florida had their back and I think we did much better in Florida, but if you look at what a lot of these police officers are dealing with now, it’s terrible.

“So, I thought it was important to recognize the service, to recognize the sacrifice.”


 

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