Florida Has Set Gun Laws in Stone; the State, Not Localities, Will Decide on Regulations

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Patterson

Gun-control plans President Barack Obama outlined Wednesday follow White House calls for a national dialogue on guns.

But for cities across Florida, that dialogue starts and ends in Tallahassee.

"I can't remember the last time I got a call, or if I've ever gotten a call, about gun control," said Jacksonville City Councilman John Crescimbeni. "... It's not my jurisdiction."

State law could make sure that won't change.

Since 1987, Florida's Legislature has barred local governments from setting any rules about owning, carrying or shooting guns, saying it was the state's job - alone - to make those choices.

"Miami may want a different policy than Jacksonville. But there's not much they can do about it," said Matt Corrigan, a political scientist at the University of North Florida.

Florida has less gun regulation than many states, and is rated "least restrictive" in a state-by-state ranking by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun-control advocacy group.

A chain of Republican governors and GOP-controlled Legislatures helped enact limits on gun rules, which at one point made the state one of the most gun-friendly in America, said Corrigan, who has been researching Gov. Jeb Bush's legacy. From limiting environmental liability for lead around gun ranges to barring doctors from talking to patients about guns in homes, lawmakers backed a range of measures that muted issues of concern to some gun critics.

The National Rifle Association also saw the benefits of having a strong voice in Tallahassee.

"If you get what you want passed at the state level, then you're not worried about variation at the local level," Corrigan said.

State-level control, known as pre-emption, has eliminated the possibility of local regulation in all but three states, making influence over legislatures more critical for groups like the NRA, said Gary Kleck, a Florida State University criminology professor. …