County Commission not above the law, says NRA

The mood was heavy among Palm Beach County commissioners Tuesday as they began the process of repealing years of ordinances regarding the regulation of firearms and ammunition in response to a new state law. Commissioners vowed to fight the measure.

While a state law was passed in 1987 preempting all local ordinances pertaining to firearms and ammunition, municipalities and counties continued to enact numerous regulations, knowing there were no consequences for doing so. The amended law, signed by the governor and effective Oct. 1, not only makes it illegal for counties and municipalities to pass their own gun laws, but it provides stiff penalties for those that do, including fines and removal from office.

“Since 1987 it has been illegal for local governments to pass Ordinances to regulate firearms or ammunition in any manner,” said Marion Hammer, NRA lobbyist and past president. “Local governments have been arrogantly violating state law because there were no penalties.”

Commissioner Shelley Vana explained that urban areas are different than rural areas and that Palm Beach County needs more restrictions because there are more people, but she doesn’t think residents are even aware of the new state law or the counties’ inability to enact their own bans. “The only reason Marion Hammer (of the NRA) has so much power is that people are not paying attention,” Vana added.

“Tallahassee is under the spell of the NRA,” said Commissioner Burt Aaronson, adding that it was the County Commission’s duty to keep the public safe. “We have a capable legal department – let’s challenge it.”

“They are not above the law,” added Hammer. “The new law ONLY adds penalties to existing state law. Now local officials are complaining because they are being forced to obey the law. Imagine that, being punished for breaking the law.”

Commissioners directed staff to research a way to mount such a challenge, draft a resolution to send to the Florida Legislature stating the county’s opposition to the law and add the issue to the agenda for the County Commission’s joint meeting with the local legislative delegation. The final reading to repeal the ordinances will be Sept. 13.

In other business, commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance to require registration of homes in foreclosure. Dionna Brahs Hall of the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches suggested that the ordinance should only apply to homes with code enforcement issues. Hall said not including such an exemption penalizes thousands of homes with no code enforcement violations.

Also passed by the commission were updated regulations for child care facilities that require, among other mandates, alarms in transport vans to alert drivers to children left behind in parked vehicles. The Children’s Services Council has provided a $100,000 fund to reimburse child care providers for the first purchase of alarms.


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