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Legal Alert: Local Governments’ Proprietary Power To Choose Not To Allow Gun Shows At Government Owned Facilities

Pursuant to Florida Statutes, the regulation of firearms and ammunition is preempted to the State, and local governments and their officials are potentially exposed to onerous penalties (including removal from office, personal fines of $5,000, lawsuits against the local government for damages up to $100,000 and attorneys’ fees) if they violate the preemption. The intent and effect of these harsh penalties has been to deter and prevent local governments and their officials from taking community requested actions related to firearms, even if those actions may not be preempted.
 
For thirty years, a gun show was held at War Memorial Auditorium in the City of Fort Lauderdale. Last year, the City made a proprietary business decision to no longer license the gun show at the auditorium, which is owned by the City and is located in a City park.  A lawsuit was filed against the City, alleging a violation of the First Amendment right to commercial speech, a violation of the equal protection clause, a violation of the State preemption on local regulation of firearms and breach of contract.  On February 19, 2019, United States Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow issued a Report and Recommendation where she ruled in favor of Fort Lauderdale (after a full day evidentiary hearing) and recommended that the injunction that the gun show had requested be DENIED.  As a result, yesterday the lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed with prejudice.
 
This case supports the position that local governments, acting in their proprietary capacity, may choose not to allow gun shows to license or lease their facilities.  Consistent with this position, various state officials this week stated in a motion filed in another lawsuit that is pending in Leon County Circuit Court that “[a]ctions taken in a purely proprietary capacity, such as leasing (or declining to lease) county-owned properties or facilities to a particular individual or business, are not ‘regulation’ in any sense of the term. Such actions therefore fall outside the [preemption] statute’s ambit.”
 
If you have questions about this important issue, please feel free to reach out to Jamie Cole, Esq., at (954) 763-4242 or at jcole@wsh-law.com

Categories: Local Government
Tags: South Florida Local Government Law