Millions of Americans across the United States desire real change to current gun laws. Recognizing that Congress or even their state government may not act on the issue, they may turn to their community leaders for help. But even in the wake of a school shooting in Florida last week, mayors in The Sunshine State won’t be able to do much good for their constituents.
That’s because legislators in the state government passed a law that bans mayors from enacting their own ordinances regarding gun rules. The law even punishes mayors directly for attempting to do as much — imposing a $5,000 fine if they decide to try it.
The law goes further. If a mayor says, “So what?” and implements a gun ordinance anyway, that individual can be removed from office. And even then, if the community still decides to keep the ordinance in place, it can result in that jurisdiction being fined up to $100,000 by the state.
The law further prohibits communities from using taxpayer dollars to defend their ordinances in court, meaning even if there’s unanimous approval of an ordinance within a city government, the law itself cannot be challenged on its constitutionality by funds derived from the community itself.
So while most Americans support a ban on assault weapons, a city in Florida cannot create for itself an ordinance banning such weapons. But nor can it make simple regulations like restrictions on having a gun in public parks.
The law, which was signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott in 2011, is hypocritical — the GOP often touts itself as the party of local control. Yet in recent years, Republicans have abandoned that credo in many states across the country, particularly in areas where some pockets of progressive cities still remain within states where the legislative and executive branches are under conservative control.
In some instances, communities should have say over their ordinances, especially with respect to how they manage public spaces. Laws restricting that local control are not only hypocritical for Republicans to enact, but dangerous for communities that deal with different issues. What works in Pensacola might not be appropriate in Broward County — and state officials are wrong to insist on uniformity where different answers to communities’ problems might be more proper.