According to an Oct. 20 article published on the St. Petersburg Times’ Tampabay.com, Florida Representative Rick Kriseman (D-Pinellas) is urging county lawmakers to endorse a local measure allowing voters to opt out of the newly effective penalties of Florida’s recently amended firearms preemption statute.
In 1987, the legislature took the bold step of preempting local ordinances to eliminate the possibility that a firearms owner from one locality could run afoul of the law simply by crossing into another jurisdiction. “Under a patchwork of laws that local antigun politicians favor, a law-abiding citizen could unintentionally become a criminal by merely crossing an invisible city or county line. In today’s mobile society, law-abiding citizens have no way of knowing local ordinances, and criminals don’t care”, said Marion P. Hammer, past-president of the National Rifle Association and Florida’s foremost gun rights lobbyist. She added, “Citizens shouldn’t have to worry about the exercise of their constitutional rights based upon where they live.”
Unfortunately, the legislature did not include penalties in the original preemption statute, never imagining that local governments would simply choose to violate state statute. In fact, over 300 local governments did just that. The only way to get an offending ordinance off the books was to bring suit after one’s own arrest and at one’s own expense. It remained that way for over 20 years.
Finally in 2010, complaints were made to legislators by firearms owners, and the legislature introduced an amendment to the original preemption bill which included stiff penalties against the offending jurisdictions, a “loser pays” provision, and a potential personal fine of $5,000 and removal from office of those local officials who continued to willfully violate state statute. The amended bill, HB 45, was enacted in June 2011 and became effective on October 1st. As that date approached, many local governments complied by repealing their offending ordinances. A few local governments stubbornly continue to ignore the statute, and invite legal action both by individuals and organizations like Florida Carry, a recently formed non-profit gun rights group that is quickly gaining ground in legislative circles.
For nearly a quarter-century, Pinellas County violated state law with impunity. Rep. Kriseman essentially wants the legislature to agree to let the county blatantly violate state law yet again. He cites the death of St. Petersburg police officers and other gun violence as the reason. However, that excuse simply doesn’t wash. If a criminal is willing to commit a felony under state statute, why would the possibility of a simple misdemeanor and possible fine from a county ordinance deter him in any way? County ordinances only affect the law-abiding citizen.
Sean Caranna, co-executive director of Florida Carry, had this to say regarding Kriseman’s proposed opt out. “Local officials who knowingly and willfully violate state law should be subject to prosecution just as any other citizen.”
Marion Hammer agrees. “Representative Kriseman’s proposed legislation suggests local politicians wish to be exempt from not only Florida statutes, but the Constitution as well. The preemption statute was specifically designed to provide uniformity of firearms laws throughout the state. The name of the law is the Joe Carlucci Uniform Firearms Act.”
Star Trek fans are familiar with a fictional biomechanical race known as the Borg Collective. As far as the Florida Legislature, the National Rifle Association, and Florida Carry are concerned, the warnings of the Borg are applicable to Pinellas County as well as any other local government in violation of preemption. “RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. YOU MUST COMPLY.”