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Florida Prohibits Municipalities From Enacting Gun-Control Laws


All this week, we've heard the voices of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School - survivors of the mass shooting there - calling for tighter gun control, like student Cameron Kasky.


CAMERON KASKY: As much as we love thoughts and prayers, we don't need them from our lawmakers. We need action, and we demand it. And we're going to get it.

MARTIN: Yet across the state of Florida, local leaders hoping to pass new gun control measures have found that their hands are tied. Like many states, Florida prohibits cities and counties from imposing their own gun control rules. If elected officials implement new restrictions, they can be fined and removed from office by the governor. Earlier this week, I spoke to Philip Stoddard. He is a Democrat and the mayor of South Miami. And I started by asking him what gun control measures he would like to see implemented.

PHILIP STODDARD: Mayors across Florida are calling for four different sets of changes. One is to raise the minimum age of gun purchases and possession - and same for ammunition - to the age of 21. We would like to see red-flag laws to allow protection orders. We want to eliminate the loopholes and private transfer of weapons. And we want background checks for all sales and transfers of firearms. We'd like to place restrictions on the sale and transfer of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And, of course, we're not too happy about the state's punitive regulations of lawmakers such as myself at the local level.

MARTIN: What would happen if you, as the mayor of South Miami, just went for it, just made those changes to affect your constituents?

STODDARD: Well, in the past, the city commission passed an ordinance that required trigger locks. And the NRA sued. And the Third District Court of Appeal voided the city's regulation. If I were to do that today, I would face fines and possible removal by the governor.

MARTIN: So Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz actually sponsored this prohibition rule back in 2011. And he said at the time that if each municipality was allowed to develop its own gun regulations - that - and I'm quoting here - "someone crossing county lines could become a criminal."

STODDARD: Well, I mean, the difficulties of enforcement is entirely a different issue. I mean, really, the question is, should people be allowed to bring assault weapons into Miami-Dade County, where I live? And I'd say the answer is no.

MARTIN: Did South Miami have to roll back any regulations when the law was first passed?

STODDARD: We'd had the one regulation on trigger locks. And that had already been voided by the Third District Court of Appeals. I will, however, add that a city commissioner, Jay Beckman, had a shotgun that he'd gotten for self-defense. He had disassembled it. His son found the parts, reassembled them and shot Jay to death in the shower one morning. If Jay'd had a trigger lock on that gun, Jay would still be alive.

MARTIN: That's a horrific story. Is there a chance that you would flout the state law and pass some of these gun control measures despite the risk?

STODDARD: I don't see any point in doing that. I think the real point at this point is to change the state law.

MARTIN: Philip Stoddard is the mayor of South Miami. Thank you so much for making the time to talk with us.

STODDARD: Thanks for having me on.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLEEPSTREAM'S "THE SPIRIT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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