MANATEE -- Strict new penalties added to an existing state statute have spurred a rush among local governments to repeal regulations involving guns.
The Manatee County Commission today has a proposal on its agenda that would strip three ordinances from its books addressing the use of firearms and ammunition.
The Bradenton City Council last month repealed ordinances regulating the discharge of guns and pistols, and a “possible prohibition” on the sale of firearms during a disaster emergency.
“It is quite apparent that the (Florida) Legislature does not want any regulation in this entire area from subordinate governments,” wrote James A. Minix, the county's chief deputy county attorney, in an opinion about changes to the law, effective Oct. 1.
“The Legislature expressly states that ‘it is occupying the whole field of regulation of firearms and ammunition’ ... including the purchase, sale, transfer, taxation, manufacture, ownership, possession, storage and transportation thereof,” Minix said.
The National Rifle Association pushed for the new legislation, saying cities and counties were ignoring existing law because they had no penalties. The law says that governments at the local level must follow state gun laws, which are generally less restrictive, according to a recent Associated Press story.
Among the penalties are civil fines of up to $5,000 levied against officials or firing or removal from office, according to Minix’s analysis.
“The amended act has been considered a ‘migraine headache’ bill for many in law enforcement and government, due to the draconian penalties,” Minix wrote.
Florida Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Bennett said he had not realized when the legislation was under consideration that it would be so far-reaching.
“I don’t think most of us realized it would put the cities and counties in the box they’re in,” he said Monday. “I believe in Home Rule: If the City of Bradenton wants to write legislation saying you can’t carry a gun inside the bar, they should be able to do that.”
“I don’t think we were as knowledgeable of the circumstances as we should have been,” he added.
Three Manatee County ordinances that could be considered in violation are slated for repeal, according to county documents.
One addresses a permit to carry a concealed pistol; another deals with discharge of firearms on roads, highways or streets; and a third regulates firearms with regard to target practice ranges.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.