WESTON, FLA. (WSVN) – – A group of South Florida mayors and public officials who had sued the state over a 2011 provision that prevented them from enacting gun safety ordinances without facing severe penalties celebrated a court ruling striking down the provision.
Weston Mayor Daniel Stermer joined other South Florida mayors, commissioners and state representatives at a news conference, held at Weston City Hall on Monday, to discuss Friday’s decision by a Leon County Circuit judge.
The ruling would allow city and county leaders to talk about and enact local gun ordinances with limits. The 2011 provision said they couldn’t do that without personally being held liable.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava said Friday’s decision comes not a moment too soon.
“The epidemic of gun violence is a moral crisis,” she said.
Weston City Attorney Jamie Cole further elaborated on the restrictions public officials faced due to the 2011 provision.
“First, a penalty of up to $5,000 against the individual elected official. Second, the potential removal from office by the governor,” said Cole, “and third, unlimited lawsuits by any interested person.”
“The purpose of [these stipulations] was to chill and deter us from even having conversations,” said Stermer.
The group that came together for Monday’s news conference fought that provision and won. However, they are still unable to overstep state gun laws.
“This lawsuit speaks to a different issue, though. It speaks to the issue of not silencing us and stopping us from deliberating,” said Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert III.
The group said they will ask Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis not to appeal the ruling. However, gun rights activists said that is unlikely.
“A Leon County Judge has essentially given local public officials what amounts to a ‘get out of jail free’ card,” said National Rifle Association spokesperson Marion Hammer.
But Stermer indicated the ruling will have a positive effect across the Sunshine State.
“This is good for cities. This is good for the people who live in our cities, and it provides local control back to us without fear,” he said.
The decision came just a few days before, police said, a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California, leaving three people dead and injuring a dozen others.
Leaders said that even if there are currently no plans to enact local rules, at least the conversation can start.
“The tragedy of this particular lawsuit is that we’re debating over free speech,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, “and the fact that we have to litigate whether or not we have the right to speak shows where we have come in this country.”