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Politics

Gun Group, Leesburg in Legal Shootout Over Weapons Law

March 15, 2012 - 7:00pm

A gun group is suing the city of Leesburg over a local law that requires municipal approval to discharge a firearm.

Florida Carry says the statute violates state law, which prohibits local jurisdictions from implementing gun restrictions. The 2011 Legislature doubled down on that 25-year-old law by spelling out penalties against local officials, including removal from office.

Sean Caranna, president of Florida Carry, said his group identified 302 city and county governments out of compliance with the state law prior to passage of House Bill 45. He estimates that more than 200 have since rescinded their statutes.

Recently, the towns of Lady Lake and Dunellon scrapped their local firearms laws. But Leesburg has stuck to its guns by maintaining this ordinance:

"It shall be unlawful for any person to discharge any firearms within the corporate limits of the city except for the protection of person or property, unless authorized or permitted so to do by the chief of police."

City Manager Jay Evans told Sunshine State News that Leesburg "ceased enforcing" the ordinance on Oct, 1, 2011, following passage of HB 45 (now Florida Statute 790.33).

"This seems to be the only requirement of the statute," Evans said.

Caranna disputes Evans' contention.

"The [state] law prohibits them from promulgating any firearms law. Merely having a law on the books is an attempt at enforcement," he said.

Florida Carry and the National Rifle Association -- both of which lobbied for HB 45, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar -- have stared down other municipalities. Last October, the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County revoked their gun ordinances on the day Florida Carry filed suit there.

Under the state's "pre-emption" clause, the Legislature declared it "occupies 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."

State statutes outlaw certain uses of weapons, including "reckless" and "dangerous" acts that endanger the public.

Caranna's group is in the process of tracking down otherjurisdictions that maintain gun laws on their books, and vows to bring lawsuits where needed.

Meanwhile, facing legal action in the 5th Circuit Court in Lake County, Evans said he "must withhold further comment due to the pending nature of this litigation."

Reach Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

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