(As I am not licensed in Florida, nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice in the State of Florida.)
While this may not be the winter of our discontent, it seems to be shaping up to be the winter of preemption. As Prince Law Offices awaits the Commonwealth Court’s determination in its Erie litigation, Florida’s First District Court of Appeals ruled that the University of North Florida is preempted by state law from prohibiting the storing of firearms in vehicles in UNF lots.
According to the opinion, which, like Erie, was also reviewed en banc, Florida state law expressly allows the storage of firearms in vehicles. While school districts are given the option of waiving this allowance, the Court found (after a few pages of semantic and legislative intent analysis) that a university is not a school district and thus was not authorized to waive the vehicle storage allowance granted by the legislature.
The Court found preemption in both the Florida Constitution and an express preemption statute enacted by the Florida legislature. In analyzing the constitutional provision, the Court said that, despite the fact that the Board of Trustees of UNF had been granted broad authority to manage the University under Article IX, s. 7 of the Florida Constitution, it was not granted the power to “deprive students attending UNF of their constitutional right to bear arms”. Further recognizing that the “right [to bear arms] has been zealously guarded and protected,” the Court stated that the constitutional amendment granting the Board of Trustees broad discretion would likely not have passed or been upheld by the state supreme court had there been any consideration that the amendment would limit the people’s firearms rights.
Read the full opinion, concurrences, and dissent here.