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Can Local Government Limit Your Gun Rights in Florida?

The Florida Legislature can and does prohibit local municipalities from making certain gun laws by the legal doctrine known as “preemption.” A preemption statute is a mechanism by which the Florida legislature sets certain areas off limits to local governments, which helps ensure the uniformity of law across the state, in this case, firearms law.  However, the State of Florida did not completely preclude local governments from making laws that can effect your right to keep and bear arms.

The Florida preemption law found in Florida Statutes §790.33 reads:

Except as expressly provided by the State Constitution or general law, the Legislature hereby declares 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, to the exclusion of all existing and future county, city, town, or municipal ordinances or any administrative regulations or rules adopted by local or state government relating thereto. Any such existing ordinances, rules, or regulations are hereby declared null and void.

This statute’s intent is to provide uniform firearms laws in the state by prohibiting the enactment or enforcement of any local ordinances or regulations relating to firearms, ammunition, or components thereof and to prohibit the enactment of any future ordinances or regulations relating to firearms, ammunition, or components thereof unless specifically authorized.

  1. What local governments may regulate

In the area of firearms, the Florida Legislature is very serious that local governments may not interfere with the rights of citizens of this state.  However, there are a few very limited areas that the State Legislature has left to the local governments that may affect a firearm owner’s rights.

These include:

  1. Zoning ordinances that encompass firearms businesses along with other businesses, except that zoning ordinances cannot be designed to regulate firearms in conflict with the statute;
  2. A law enforcement agency may enact and enforce regulations pertaining to firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories issued to or used by its officers in the course of their official duties;
  3. The ability to enact and enforce regulations of an employee of the entity during and in the course of the employee’s official duties;
  4. A court or administrative law judge from hearing and resolving any case or controversy or issuing any opinion or order on a matter within the jurisdiction of that court or judge; or

Further, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission may regulate the use of firearms or ammunition as a method of taking wildlife and regulate the shooting ranges managed by the commission.

To emphasize their commitment to keeping local governments from interfering with Floridian’s gun rights, the Florida Legislature in Florida Statutes §790.33 specifies that elected officials or agents of the Government who attempt to enter the area of firearm regulation may be personally liable for penalties up to $5,000 and may not use public funds in defense of themselves or the laws, even when enacted in good faith.  Further, individuals and organizations adversely effected by these illegally enacted laws may be entitled to damages up to $100,000.

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