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10 South Florida mayors sue state to make their own gun laws

Unique law fines individual city officials if they try to regulate guns

WESTON, Fla. – Ten mayors in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have announced they are banding together to sue the state of Florida for the right to make their own gun laws.

A state law bans cities and counties from imposing their own gun-control rules. City leaders can be personally fined up to $5,000 if they disobey the law. The mayors said the penalties are unconstitutional.

While law enforcement agencies generally support the provision because it creates uniformity, the law's strict and personal penalties are unique to Florida.

"The idea that we cannot control our own space to make sure it's safe for our residents and visitors is astounding," Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said.

Coral Gables, Cutler Bay, Lauderhill, Miami Beach, Miami Gardens, Miramar, Pinecrest, Pompano Beach, South Miami and Weston are participating in the lawsuit.

The law is receiving renewed attention after 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Some of the survivors of the shooting have become staunch advocates for stricter gun laws including banning semiautomatic weapons like the AR-15 rifle used in the killings. 

"We get calls every day, 'What are you going to do?'" Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam said.

Gov. Rick Scott signed new measures regulating gun sales after the shooting, but the city leaders said the new rules don't go far enough. The measures raised the age to buy a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21 and imposed a three-day waiting period to long gun sales. 

However, the changes didn't include a ban on semiautomatic weapons or address ways people can avoid background checks by buying weapons at gun shows or through private sales.

"We don't want those weapons to be carried in Coral Gables, sold in Coral Gables," city Mayor Raul Valdes Fauli said.

McKinley Lewis, a spokesman for Scott, said the governor is reviewing the lawsuit.

The two South Florida towns most affected by the Stoneman Douglas shooting -- Parkland and nearby Coral Springs -- are not part of the lawsuit. Parkland's leaders have not addressed the issue and Coral Springs is working on a separate lawsuit. 

"We challenge the rest of the 400-or-so cities in this state and the 67 counties, come stand with us," Weston Mayor Daniel Stermer said.

About the Authors:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."