Activism

How Tallahassee Beat the Gun Lobby, Florida GOP and an Ex-President Who Wanted to Erase Local Gun Controls

A snapshot of the stakes in nationwide "preemption" fights.

Photo Credit: http://defendlocal.com

Editor's note: Tallahassee's Democratic mayor Andrew Gillum is one of the leading voices in the growing national fight to stop GOP-majority legislatures and governors from pre-empting progressive local laws.

Last week, gun safety for Florida families finally prevailed over big gun lobbyists.

When I was sued by the gun lobby — a lawsuit supported by the NRA in court with personal attacks lobbed by their former national President — I knew I was in for a fight. And like most of the fights the NRA joins, this one was also against common sense gun safety.

My colleagues and I refused to repeal ordinances that prevent shooting guns in a public park. While I’m sure most responsible NRA members would support this safety measure, the right-wing gun lobby got angry. That’s because they thought they had rigged the system in their favor.

The gun lobby, like many special interests, supports something called preemption, where they spend lots of money on state lawmakers to circumvent and strip power from local government. These preemption laws can end up allowing fracking in your neighborhood, guns in public parks, discrimination, dirty water, and many other harmful developments.

Despite these odds and efforts against my city, — we won. (An appeals court threw out the gun lobby suit.) And you can win, too.

We didn’t back down at the threat of personal fines, two years of litigation, and an onslaught of attacks from the right-wing, well-funded interest groups. We found great lawyers, great partners, and made an example of the NRA and their affiliates. We also founded #DefendLocal.

Because of this victory, we’ve overcome the law that gun lobbyists have used to bully locally elected officials. That means the next time they come after another community with a lawsuit, precedent will be on our side, and they’ll have to think twice.

It was our perseverance that did it. They didn’t expect it.

When it got tough, we remembered the aftermath of the tragedies we have as a nation have too often experienced. We thought of Orlando, Newtown, Charleston, and the numerous other cities around the country where senseless gun deaths have and continue to occur every day.

And that’s what I hope will inspire you to fight and win against the right-wing of the NRA. When they say “too soon” after the next tragedy. When they try to trump your right to safety. When they bully you or your voices, fight back. And don’t stop fighting.

Because together, we will continue to win.

Andrew Gillum is the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee, Florida.

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