Since 1987 it has been illegal for local Florida governments to regulate firearms and ammunition. The preemption statute was passed then so that Florida gun owners would no longer face a patchwork of local laws that was impossible to keep up with. It was also passed to protect Floridians from local lawmakers who do not respect the citizens’ right to bear arms. The Florida Legislature never imagined that local leaders would thumb their noses at Tallahassee and intentionally break the law despite clear statute and appellate court decisions. But they have for the past 24 years and the patchwork continued.
In 2010, Florida Carry, Inc. Co-Executive Director Richard Nascak and a cadre of volunteers organized on web forums and banded together in an grassroots effort to fix the problems at the local level. They contacted local governments and were shocked at the reactions they got. Local leaders were quite happy to make criminals of lawful gun owners because there was no penalty for politicians and bureaucrats breaking the state preemption law.
“So, sue us!” was the general and sometimes literal response. Lee County resident and attorney Patrick Buckley did just that. He filed a lawsuit against his county’s park carry ban, knowing there was no provision to even recover his costs and fees should he win.
Richard Nascak engaged State Rep. Paige Kreegel for help and the NRA got involved to draft legislation that would put teeth in the long-abused statute.
Volusia County traded arguments for months with Florida Carry, Inc. Co-Executive Director Sean Caranna over its woodland and airport carry bans but finally backed down and repealed the preempted ordinances in March 2011 once it became clear that the Firearms Preemption Enforceability bill was on track to pass.
During the 2011 session, the legislature made it clear that they had had enough. On October 1st 2011, new penalties and a vehicle for recovery of attorney’s fees and costs goes in to effect. With days left to act, Florida counties, cities, and agencies are on notice. Florida Carry will hold local leaders accountable and finally clear up the patchwork of unlawful restrictions on the right to bear arms in Florida.