Those unfamiliar with the structure of Florida’s government may question why the state’s Agriculture Commissioner is challenging preemption. There are several reasons. Fried is the only elected Democrat holding statewide office and she is decidedly anti-gun. Her Agriculture Department oversees Florida’s licensing division, which operates the state’s popular Concealed Weapon and Firearm Licensing program. As the elected official accountable for the CWFL program, Fried’s management has been abysmal and the subject of lawsuits. While she has claimed to be a gun owner and CWFL licensee, Fried also has a Florida medical marijuana card, despite the federal legal issues this creates.
The main reason Fried is fighting the preemption statute is due to her candidacy for governor. Some pundits believe her lawsuit is nothing more than a fundraising and publicity stunt in her race against Republican incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Fried did not respond to interview requests seeking her comments for this story.
In her press release, Fried cites data from a scholarly paper written by two Columbia Law School professors titled: “Punitive Preemption: An Unprecedented Attack on Local Democracy.” One of the authors, Professor Richard Briffault, is described in his law school bio as “a leading thinker on ‘the new preemption,’ a critique of states that are increasingly passing ideological laws that override local ordinances. Working with the Local Solutions Support Center, he educates city and county government officials on how to respond to state preemption.”
In her lawsuit, Fried clearly took a page from Professor Briffault’s anti-preemption playbook, as she incorporated several of his suggestions that show how local officials should fight what Briffault calls “punitive preemption,” namely, challenging the statute’s constitutionality based upon the First Amendment, and by arguing that “coercive financial penalties could be inconsistent with home rule.”
If Fried’s lawsuit is successful, it will serve as a template for anti-gun groups in other states who seek to overturn their preemption statutes.
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