DATE: April 7, 2011
TO: USF & NRA Members and Friends
FROM: Marion P. Hammer
USF Executive Director
NRA Past President
House Bill 45, introduced by state Representative Matt Gaetz (R-4) was heard in the House Judiciary Committee today and passed by a 12 to 6 vote.
HB 45 would simply provide penalties for government officials, local governments and agencies that willfully and knowingly violate the state firearms preemption law. State law prohibits local governments and government agencies from adopting any gun control ordinances or regulations. There are some who are arrogantly violating the law because there are no penalties currently in the law.
Be clear -- those voting FOR the bill believe that public officials should OBEY the law. Those who are AGAINST the bill, clearly don't support penalties to hold local government officials accountable for violating the law.
VOTING FOR THE BILL: (All Republicans)
VOTING AGAINST THE BILL: (All Democrats)
BACKGROUND and WHY HB 45 IS NEEDED
In 1987, the Florida Legislature passed a firearms preemption statute (f.s.790.33) to provide uniformity of gun laws -- in fact, it is called the "Joe Carlucci Uniform Firearms Act."
It was intended to stop local governments from making criminals out of law-abiding citizens just because they simply crossed a city limit or county line. It was intended to provide uniform gun laws so that no matter where in the state you live and no matter where in the state you travel, the same gun laws apply.
Unfortunately, the law contains no penalties for violations because no one ever imagined that local elected officials and government workers would willfully and knowingly violate state law.
The absence of penalties has lead to many intentional violations and has resulted in subsequent lawsuits to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens.
Over and over again, NRA attorneys have written letters to local governments informing them that proposed ordinances violate state law. Unfortunately, when their lawyers confirm that the ordinance would be illegal, they usually also explain that there are no penalties for violating the law -- consequently, some jurisdictions have arrogantly thumbed their noses at state law and have passed illegal ordinances anyway.
In 2000, the City of South Miami was one of the cities that NRA lawyers wrote concerning a proposed ordinance that violated state law.
The City's external counsel confirmed that it was a violation, but also noted that there were no penalties. We were informed that city Commissioners were told that without penalties, they could do what they wanted to do. Further, an illegal ordinance would stand until the City was sued and a court declared the ordinance void.
The rights of law-abiding gun-owners were being violated, so NRA sued.
NRA won the lawsuit and, in fact, the appellate court even noted in its opinion that the court had previously ruled that local ordinances violate state law.
The court refused to award NRA attorney's fees. But nobody said the City couldn't use tax dollars to pay their own expenses and pay outside counsel to defend their illegal actions. That is egregious.
So, not only did they violate the rights of residents but then they used their tax dollars to pay the legal fees of those who intentionally did it.
It is not the NRA's responsibility to enforce state law, but nobody else will do it because there are no specified penalties.
A local attorney is currently suing Lee County for violating the state preemption law.
In the Lee County case, not only did state Representative Paige Kreegel tell them their ordinance was illegal, but then-Attorney General Bill McCollum also told them.
This has to stop!
HB 45 provides penalties for local officials, local governments and agencies that willfully and knowingly violate the preemption law. These penalties are severe to deter further violations.
It is clear that some jurisdictions are predisposed to violating the law in the absence of severe penalties. That's why the bill provides felony penalties for those who willfully and knowingly participate in the violation and up to a $5 million dollar fine for the offending entity.
Sound extreme? In 2004, the legislature passed legislation prohibiting any form of gun registration or the compiling of any lists of gun owners or guns. The penalties are identical to those in this bill; that's why they're in this one.
Gun registration schemes, lists and data bases that violated the law suddenly were destroyed. To our knowledge, there have been no intentional violations since that law passed. There have been no prosecutions under that law. It has been the ultimate deterrent. Anyone who has unintentionally violated the law has immediately taken action to come into compliance when notified.
This is not about putting people in jail or imposing big fines -- unless absolutely necessary. We just want local public officials, elected and otherwise, to quit violating the state law and stop trampling the rights of Florida’s law-abiding gun-owners.
Please continue to check your e-mail and www.NRAILA.org for updates on HB 45.