By Brad Tuttle
February 20, 2018

The Florida school shooting that left 17 students and staff dead last week has inspired massive protests and widespread calls for stricter gun control.

But Florida’s cities and towns are virtually powerless to enact tougher gun regulations. As the Miami Herald pointed out, the Florida state legislature passed a law in 2011 allowing it to fine any mayor $5,000 personally, and even remove that mayor from office, if he or she tries to enforce stricter firearms laws. Towns that attempt to enforce local laws that aren’t in line with state gun regulations face up to $100,000 in legal damages as well.

What’s more, state laws prohibit local officials from using public funds to mount their legal defense over gun ordinances. “It goes far beyond simply saying [local officials] can’t regulate the sale and use of guns at the local level,” Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said earlier this year—just a few weeks before the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “It says not only can’t you do that, but if you do do that, there are going to be severe penalties levied against you as an individual.”

Gillum made the comments while preparing to appear in court for a lawsuit filed on behalf of gun-rights advocates against Tallahassee. Mayor Gillum is being represented in court with pro-bono lawyers because, again, state laws do not allow taxpayer dollars to be used for such legal defenses. The city and its officials are being sued because Tallahassee has a local law banning people from firing guns in public parks—a measure seen as stricter than state laws, which have no such regulations. (The court ruled in favor of Tallahassee in early February, stating that it couldn’t force the city to repeal ordinances that it wasn’t even enforcing.)

As the New York Times reported in 2011, when rules were passed prohibiting cities from enacting local gun ordinances at the threat of fines for city leaders and the municipalities themselves, many municipalities would have to immediately allow practices that had been banned locally:

Florida State Senator Dennis Baxley, a Republican and vehement gun-rights supporter, said that he doesn’t think residents want tougher gun-control regulations, even after last week’s deadly school shooting. “I don’t see any interest here on that,” Baxley said recently. “We’re pretty comfortable that freedom works.”

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