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Monday, April 12, 2021
<p>In this Jan. 19, 2016 file photo, handguns are displayed at the Smith &amp; Wesson booth at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas.</p>

In this Jan. 19, 2016 file photo, handguns are displayed at the Smith & Wesson booth at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas.

The City of Gainesville joined 10 other Florida cities in a lawsuit challenging portions of the state statute restricting local regulation of guns.

The City Commission unanimously approved a motion Thursday to sign the city’s name onto the lawsuit. Commissioners Harvey Ward, Helen Warren, David Arreola, Adrian Hayes-Santos and Mayor Lauren Poe also signed on as individual plaintiffs. The lawsuit, against Gov. Rick Scott and other state officials, challenges the personal penalties the state statute imposes on local officials who attempt to regulate firearms and the city’s inability to regulate firearms on city-owned property.

Currently, local government officials who enact legislation to regulate firearms can be subject to a $5,000 fine and removal from office, according to a Florida statute. The 11 cities are arguing the personal penalties are unconstitutional.

“The state of Florida and Rick Scott have continued to pass preemption laws restricting local communities from being able to protect their residents,” Hayes-Santos said.

Hayes-Santos chose to sign on as an individual plaintiff because he feels the state’s preemption law prevents local governments from being able to do their jobs.

“Elected officials should be able to pass laws without fear of being removed from office,” he said.

Typically, private property owners are allowed to regulate firearms on their own property, but this authority doesn’t extend legally to cities under Florida’s preemption law. This lawsuit will challenge this portion of the law as unconstitutional.

City Commissioner Charles Goston chose not to sign onto the lawsuit as an individual because he said he wants to demand immediate action at a rally in Tallahassee next Thursday.

“I would not want to sit back and wait and see what the results of what the lawsuit are going to be when we as individuals, we’re going to be the lawsuit, and they’re going to have to tell us something,” Goston said in the meeting.

Susan Bottcher, a former city commissioner, praised the Commission for joining the lawsuit. Bottcher said she believed the law was unconstitutional when she was a commissioner but was told she wouldn’t be successful if she tried to fight it.

“I am both glad and also saddened that it took all of the horrific events and shootings over the last seven years for us to get to this point,” she said.

Contact Jessica Giles at jgiles@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter at @jessica_giles_.

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In this Jan. 19, 2016 file photo, handguns are displayed at the Smith & Wesson booth at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas.

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