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City of Wilton Manors Joins Expanded Lawsuit Against Florida Officials, Challenging Law That Threatens Severe Penalties on Local Elected Officials and Their Cities for Passing Public Safety Gun Laws

Amended Suit, Available Here, Aims to Clear Path for Local Gun Safety Ordinances

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Three Broward County cities challenging Florida’s firearms punitive preemption law filed an amended lawsuit today, adding a fourth city and two more public officials as plaintiffs as the municipalities continue their efforts to clear a path for local public safety safety laws.

The lawsuit now includes the City of Wilton Manors and its Mayor Gary Resnick, as well as Commissioner Rebecca Tooley of Coconut Creek, who join the cities of Coral Springs, Coconut Creek and Pembroke Pines in alleging that Florida’s punitive firearms preemption law unconstitutionally and illegally threatens local legislators and municipalities with substantial penalties for enacting ordinances that may later be found to be preempted by Florida state law.

Everytown for Gun Safety’s litigation team and Proskauer Rose LLP are lead counsel in the suit, which also includes as plaintiffs Commissioner Dan Daley of Coral Springs and Mayor Frank Ortis of Pembroke Pines. The amended complaint can be read here.

Coral Springs, Coconut Creek and Pembroke Pines filed suit earlier this month, seeking to clear a path for local prohibitions on the sale of large-capacity magazines. Wilton Manors has proposed an ordinance requiring that local firearms dealers in the city refer individuals who fail background checks to local law enforcement for further investigation. The denied background check reporting ordinance was recently considered by the Wilton Manors City Commission, which adopted a resolution stating that it would enact the ordinance but for the punitive preemption penalties.

Under the punitive aspect of Florida’s firearms preemption law, if a city passes gun violence prevention legislation that is later found to be preempted, the municipality can be forced to pay up to $100,000 in damages per lawsuit plus unlimited legal fees, and the elected officials who voted to pass the ordinance can be fined up to $5,000 and removed from office if they are found to have acted knowingly and willfully. The lawsuit challenges these punitive provisions as an unconstitutional attempt to silence local officials and their communities, as well as an illegal barrier as the three cities try to prohibit the sale or transfer of most large-capacity magazines.

Filed in Broward County Circuit Court, the legal challenge includes ten separate claims, including allegations that the punitive provisions violate: (a) legislative immunity, separation of powers and governmental immunity; (b) the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as the constitutional right to due process; and (c) the home rule and other provisions of the Florida Constitution.
The cities have requested expedited review and are seeking a declaratory judgment that the penalties are unconstitutional and illegal, as well as an injunction barring their enforcement.

STATEMENT FROM GARY RESNICK, MAYOR, WILTON MANORS:

“There is simply no basis to penalize or threaten personally elected officials simply for doing what they believe is in the best interest of their communities. The legislation I have proposed for Wilton Manors may save lives and does not infringe on anyone’s right to own a gun. We need common sense reform of Florida’s gun preemption law.”

STATEMENT FROM ERIC TIRSCHWELL, DIRECTOR OF LITIGATION AT EVERYTOWN FOR GUN SAFETY SUPPORT FUND:

“We believe the penalties this suit is challenging violate the long-standing rule of legislative immunity, the First Amendment and other constitutional and legal protections. Local elected officials should not be threatened with severe penalties for passing public safety measures, and we welcome the opportunity to represent these cities and public servants taking a stand to protect their communities.”

STATEMENT FROM MICHAEL A. CARDOZO, SENIOR PARTNER, PROSKAUER ROSE, LLP:

“The Florida statutes challenged in this litigation violate fundamental principles rooted in the United States and Florida Constitutions and go far beyond standard preemption laws that nullify certain local regulations. By subjecting local elected officials and municipalities to severe penalties for enacting local laws that a court may later find to be illegal, the Florida laws have caused local elected officials and city governments to refrain from — and subjects them to liability for — acting in the best interest of their constituents.”

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