Miami Beach Commissioners Look to Challenge Florida's Lax Gun Laws

Activists at the March for Our Lives rally in Miami Beach in March 2018.
Despite the unfortunate distinction of having some of the most devastating mass shootings in the nation, Florida remains a fairly gun-friendly place. A state law passed in 2011 actually prohibits local governments from passing restrictions on firearms that are stricter than what's allowed at the state level. Local officials who flout that law can be thrown out of office and personally fined up to $5,000 — a punishment that's being challenged in court.

A Miami-Dade lawmaker hopes to change that. Last month, state Sen. Annette Taddeo introduced a bill that would repeal the preemption law and allow local governments to make their own decisions about gun restrictions. At a meeting next week, the Miami Beach City Commission will vote to back Taddeo's bill in a resolution sponsored by Commissioner Micky Steinberg.

"Harsh penalties imposed by [the state preemption law] have a chilling effect on the ability of local officials to adopt or even consider regulations that they believe are not preempted," Steinberg's resolution states.

That's not the only gun controversy Miami Beach commissioners hope to tackle. City leaders are also considering joining a Florida Supreme Court battle about a petition to restrict assault weapons. After the Parkland shooting in February 2018, the group Ban Assault Weapons Now began circulating a petition that would allow only three groups of Floridians to possess assault weapons: military personnel, law enforcement, and people who already own them. Although the petition to put an amendment on the 2020 statewide ballot has garnered more than 100,000 signatures, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has opposed the measure and began the process of blocking the petition in court.

Calling gun violence "a pervasive national problem that is exacerbated by the availability of semiautomatic assault weapons," Steinberg, Commissioner Joy Malakoff, and Mayor Dan Gelber — along with other local governments — seek to challenge Moody in court.

"A brief filed by Florida local governments would benefit the Florida Supreme Court by providing the ground-level perspective of our various localities as to the danger of the continued proliferation of military-grade assault weapons in our communities," City Attorney Raul J. Aguila writes in city documents.

Commissioners will vote on both items at a meeting September 11.

Miami Beach is a party to a lawsuit challenging the 2011 state preemption law. Separately, the city is also being sued by the pro-gun activist group Florida Carry after its members were detained by Miami Beach Police after openly carrying guns on the South Pointe pier last summer.