ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando city commissioners voted 6-1 Monday to join a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of a 2011 state law that penalizes local governments for violating preemption of the firearms regulations.
Orlando becomes the largest of an estimated 12 cities joining a class-action lawsuit filed by the city of Weston on April 2.
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Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told News 6 Monday afternoon that in his view, the state’s gun control statute (790.3) “goes too far.”
“It’s one thing to pre-empt a local government from taking action in a specific area, it’s another to try to penalize local government officials for acting in their official responsibilities,” Dyer said.
City Councilman Jim Gray was the sole no vote. Gray argued the resolution could prove to be a political mistake.
"The return on this investment isn’t a good one,” Gray told the council.
Under the existing legislation “any such existing ordinances rules or regulations (established by local governments) are hereby declared null and void.”
The penalties for establishing gun ordinances is $5,000 for each government official and up to $100,000 for city governments.
Orlando city attorney Mayanne Downs said the penalties are unconstitutional. She recommended that the council approve the resolution.
“There’s no need to go this far," she said. “If we pass an ordinance and it was pre-empted then the ordinance traditionally becomes null and void. That’s enough. We don’t also have to get smacked down in the process.”
Downs said the lawsuit doesn’t ask for a compromise but rather a “declaration” from the court so the city knows the legal boundaries.
The city is not challenging the state Legislature’s ability to pre-empt local government’s ability to establish gun-related ordinances. It only challenges the language that allows strict consequences.
“They could remove any of us from office, they could put us in jail or they could fine us,” Dyer said.
As far as winning the lawsuit, Downs smiled and said, “We don’t enter lawsuits we don’t win, usually.”
Downs said lawsuits of this nature could take months or even years.
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