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St. Pete City Council votes to join Mayor Kriseman in lawsuit against ‘draconian’ pre-emptions

Megan Holmes

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On Thursday, the St. Petersburg City Council voted to join Mayor Rick Kriseman, along with 10 South Florida counterparts, in the lawsuit against Governor Rick Scott and the state of Florida’s pre-emption of local elected officials to pass gun regulations. Passed in 2011, the law currently allows the state of Florida to penalize individual city officials for passing local regulations on firearms, with a $5,000 per day fine and/or removal from office. The city itself could face up to a $100,000 fine in addition to “actual damages.”

The resolution, presented to city council by Mayor Kriseman, passed 6-2. Votes in favor of the resolution included Councilmembers Rice, Kornell, Gerdes, Wheeler-Bowman, Foster,and Driscoll. Votes against included Councilmembers Gerdes and Montanari.

After extensive public comment from a number of groups including the League of Women Voters and Moms Demand Action for Gunsense In America, as well as comment from most of the council members, the resolution passed with little resistance.

Prior to his vote against the resolution, Gerdes argued that regardless of his feelings on the issue, he was not elected to bring the people of St. Petersburg into a lawsuit. Montanari declined to speak on the issue before voting. Prior to her vote in favor, Gabbard mentioned her legal briefing at the start of her tenure in City Council. “The first thing they tell you in the legal briefing is ‘Don’t do anything against gun laws,'” she said. According to Gabbard, this is a violation of free speech rights for public officials.

Councilmember Rice referred to the pre-emption laws as “draconian,” while Mayor Kriseman argued that the pre-emptions are some of the most punitive in the country, and that they were put in place to deter local government officials from taking a stand on the issue.

Councilmember Driscoll said she believes this is what the city of St. Petersburg wants. “They’re saying go forward and do this,” she said.

The City Council was sure to make the distinction that the vote was not for or against gun regulation, or even against state pre-emptions as a whole, but rather specifically focused on the punitive pre-emptions of this specific law.

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