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Florida AG Files Appeal In Gun Law Preemption Suit, Agriculture Commissioner Wants It Dropped

A woman with should length brown hair wears a black jacket while speaking into a microphone.
Steve Cannon
AP Photo

Last week, a circuit court judge ruled that a Florida law imposing penalties on local governments for preempting state gun laws is unconstitutional. Now, the state’s attorney general has filed an appeal, but Florida’s agriculture commissioner is crying foul.

Florida blocked local governments from preempting its gun laws starting in the late 1980s. The state revisited the issue and doubled down in 2011, adding financial penalties and the threat of removing local officials from office. Recently, a Leon County Circuit Court judge sided with local governments in a suit against the state – but the decision is being appealed by Attorney General Ashley Moody. Moody’s fellow cabinet member and its lone Democrat, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, wants Moody to drop the appeal.

"My predecessor was named in that lawsuit. And our department did its legal obligation as a defendant," Fried said on a call with media Wednesday. "But yesterday, I directed the Attorney General to remove our department from the appeal. And today, I’m calling on the state to drop the appeal now. When I was elected, I said the NRA’s influence on this office was over. And I certainly won’t let them argue in court on my behalf."

Saint Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman joined Fried and others on the call. He says there are some instances in which preemption laws can be appropriate – but matters involving guns and ammunition are not among them.

"There was a point in time where backyard gun ranges started popping up," Kriseman said. "Now, a backyard gun range in a very rural community, where your nearest neighbor may be a mile to two miles away, might not be a problem. But in my city, it’s a big problem, where we have homes that are merely hundreds of feet apart."

The group of cities and counties that filed the suit challenging preemption laws did so citing the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last February.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.