TALLAHASSEE --- More than a year after the Florida Legislature passed gun restrictions, a Leon County circuit judge has dismissed a lawsuit that alleged a ban on “bump stocks” was an unconstitutional taking of property.
Judge Ronald Flury last week issued a 12-page ruling that sided with the state in the dispute stemming from a law passed after the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
The law included a ban on bump stocks, which are devices that make semi-automatic weapons mimic fully automatic firearms. Lawmakers also raised the minimum age from 18 to 21 to buy rifles and other long guns and imposed a three-day waiting period for purchasing such guns.
About a week after then-Gov. Rick Scott signed the law, gun owners filed the bump-stock lawsuit as a potential class action. The case did not argue that the bump-stock ban itself was unconstitutional but contended that it was a taking of property that should lead to compensation for bump-stock owners.
But Flury wrote, in part, that the decision to ban bump stocks “was a valid exercise of the state’s police power” and said the ban did not take effect until October 2018, giving owners a window of time to sell or transfer the devices out of Florida.
“The state did not come onto plaintiffs’ property to destroy their ‘bump-fire stocks,’ there was no requirement in the statute that bump-fire stocks be destroyed,” Flury wrote in the ruling filed Friday. “The plaintiffs were given several months to sell or otherwise dispossess themselves of the prohibited items. The fact that plaintiffs decided to destroy their bump-fire stocks rather than move them out of state or sell them does not mean the government destroyed their property. The court finds (the law) is a valid use of the state’s police powers to protect the general health, safety and welfare of its citizens.”
In a court document filed last month, the plaintiffs’ attorneys argued against dismissal of the case, writing the law “takes an axe to the bundle of property rights associated with ‘bump-fire stocks.’ ”
“Defendants’ (the state’s) position is that it can force someone to sell, give away, trade, distribute or transfer an item within a certain time period without physically invading the rights of said person,” the document said. “Such reasoning is absurd and contradictory to plaintiffs’ rights in their own property.”
The gunman in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School did not use a bump stock, but the devices drew heavy attention in October 2017 when a man using guns with bump stocks killed dozens of people attending a music festival in Las Vegas.
Along with efforts by Florida and other states to ban bump stocks, the U.S. Department of Justice in December issued a rule that said the devices are machine guns, which are prohibited. “As a result, persons in possession of bump-stock-type devices must divest themselves of the devices before the effective date of the final rule,” the department said in a news release at the time.
The law passed last year by Florida lawmakers also faces a separate legal challenge from the National Rifle Association, which contends that raising the minimum age to purchase long guns from 18 to 21 is unconstitutional. That case is pending in federal court.