BY MIKE RYAN
Since last Friday’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, many have asked me “What are you going to do to make difference?”
I say, “We are pushing for increased security at our schools, including a Full-Time School Resource Officer program for all public schools.” That answer is satisfying, to a point.
Inevitably, someone asks, “Yea, but I meant about the guns. What are you doing about guns, ammunition and high capacity magazines? Don’t you get it?”
My response “It is illegal for me to do anything about guns.”
“But you are a Mayor. You and the Commission passed laws protecting us from synthetic drugs, rogue Oxycontin-pushing pharmacies and unscrupulous tow truck companies leaving people stranded at 4 am. Sounds more like you are scared of the NRA. If you wanted to do something, you would at least try.”
Their response is logical. How could it be illegal in a democratic society to pass laws trying to protect our residents?
Under Florida Statute Section 790.33, not only are local elected officials unable to pass local laws related to guns and ammunition, if they dare do so, there are draconian consequences imposed on the individual elected officials voting for change:
- The Governor is empowered to remove the local elected officials from office and strip them of their duly-elected status. Moreover, unlike the bribe-taking elected official caught on video who is somehow found “not guilty”, the elected official voting to protect residents will never be re-instated because there is no defense;
- The elected officials are each fined $5,000;
- The fine and the defense of that fine cannot be paid from the public coffers. In contrast, when a jury finds a bribe-taking-elected-official-caught-on-video “not guilty”, we pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees for the defense;
- When the NRA or any other organization sues claiming the law “adversely affects” their membership, and you know they will, the “guilty” elected officials must pay THEIR legal fees, up to $100,000;
- There is NO defense. You can’t say “I was just trying to help”, or “I was acting in good faith”, or “The city attorney gave us a legal opinion that we could pass this particular ordinance.”
Maybe, when it comes to guns, there is little we can do locally.
Maybe it is truly a national issue beyond the capacity of any local elected to really impact the problem.
Maybe there are good reasons not to have a patchwork of potentially inconsistent gun laws (even though it is really for the Courts to tell us what can be legally passed).
But, there is something dangerously authoritarian, dictatorial and anti-democratic about treating your local democratically elected officials like criminals for doing nothing more than trying to protect residents, businesses, visitors, and employees.
Welcome to the world of the gun lobby in Florida, where their single vote means MORE than all of your votes combined.