Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried expressed both hope and urgency Wednesday as she outlined stakes in a challenge to the state’s gun law preemption penalties, before the Supreme Court of Florida Thursday.
The Supreme Court is to hear arguments in the case challenging the 2011 state law that provides financial penalties to local officials who would enact or enforce local ordinances that are more restrictive gun laws than the state’s.
The case, initially brought by several cities including Coral Springs and its then-City Commissioner Dan Daley, who is now a Democratic Representative, has been joined by more than 30 other cities and counties and Fried, in her capacity as Agriculture Commissioner. The suit won in the Circuit Court of Leon County, but that verdict was reversed by the First District Court of Appeal.
Daley, Fried, and the cities and counties want the Supreme Court to conclude that the penalties provisions violate legal immunities for public officials and are therefore unconstitutional.
“As an attorney I have never seen such an egregious attempt to have our local electeds be personally sued and liable because of an action they took in their official capacity. That is now how this works,” Fried said.
The state initially preempted local gun laws in 1987. The lawsuit would not stop that law. It goes after the 2011 law that added penalties to local officials.
“You have duly-elected officials across this state that have been charged with keeping their communities safe, and they’re unable to do so in the wake of gun violence every single day,” Daley said.
The National Rifle Association and other gun rights organizations joined the state in opposing the suit. Giffords Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence and other gun law reform groups have joined the cities.
“It is so important that the Florida Supreme Court strike down this dangerous reaction law,” Fried said Wednesday. “This is still the wrong conversation for us to be having here. We should be talking about how to save lives and how to prevent active shooting terrorism. Instead, the state is working to punish local governments for taking steps on gun violence. This is completely backwards.”
Daley joined Fried in Orlando Wednesday to outline their case, noting that the sixth anniversary of the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub is Sunday. Daley also called attention to the mass shooting at his alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, charging that the state did nothing after Pulse and “the bare minimum” after Parkland.
“I believe we’re on the right side of history,” Daley said.
The Supreme Court arguments also come in the wake of the most recent string of horrific massacres including in Uvalde, Texas, last month and a new wave of national calls to address gun violence.
“We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our children, as the memory of all that we have lost in gun violence, to dig our heels into the ground and fight for the rights of our communities across the state to enact measures that are going to keep our communities safe,” Fried said.
“I truly believe this time is going to be different. We are seeing protests and movements all across our country, having those really hard conversations.”