It was always a symbolic act. At the end of February, the Coral Gables city commission voted to ban the sale of assault rifles anywhere in the city. This was a big deal because Florida law bans any municipality from enacting gun laws. If they do, the governor can fine and fire that city’s mayor and its commissioners. “What we did was illegal, but we wanted to send a message,” says Mayor Raúl Valdés-Fauli. That message may have been symbolic – there are no gun stores in the Gables – but it was one more pressure point on state legislators. Nine days later the governor signed the state’s strongest gun law in decades.
Having said that, at the end of March the city commission voted 3 to 2 to back down. Those who dissented – commissioners Vince Lago, Michael Mena and Frank Quesada – said it wasn’t worth exposing the city to millions of dollars in legal fees to fight the anticipated lawsuits. Reminding them of that was former banker Raul Mas Canosa, who said he wanted to open a firearm dealership in the Gables and would sue the city.
Undeterred, Valdés-Fauli voted in favor of the law, along with Commissioner Patricia Keon. He called the Tallahassee lawmakers who passed the 2011 ban on city ordinances against guns “prostitutes” of the NRA. The city will now join other Florida municipalities in an effort to overturn that law.