SOUTH MIAMI Law facing repeal Gun measure triggered suit BY EUNICE SIGLER [email protected] Following a March 20 state appeals court ruling that rendered South Miami's gun-lock ordinance invalid, a circuit judge has ordered the city to repeal the 2-year-old law by Tuesday. City officials were already reversing the law when Circuit Judge Thomas Wilson handed down his order Wednesday. The National Rifle Association and two South Miami residents filed suit against the city after it passed the ordinance in June 2000. The measure, which was never enforced, required gun owners to put locks on their guns if kids were around. City officials said the law was not meant as an enforcement tool, but rather a way to ''raise awareness'' about gun safety in the community. But the NRA argued -- and the courts agreed -- that only states can regulate firearm storage. At the May 21 meeting, the City Commission voted unanimously to repeal the law. A second and final vote is scheduled for Tuesday. The NRA is now seeking damages of about $225,000 in attorneys' fees. The organization is seeking another $17,000 in related costs. South Miami City Attorney Earl Gallop said the city will hire outside attorneys to handle that aspect of the case. Meanwhile, an NRA representative says the city was ''irresponsible'' to pass a law in conflict with state law. ''The city knew it was violating state law and essentially dared us to sue them. It was a shameless act of political arrogance,'' said Marion Hammer, former president of the NRA and now a lobbyist for the organization. Gallop said that based on the wording of the state law, the city had a ''good argument'' for passing the ordinance. Shortly after South Miami's law passed, Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth issued a favorable opinion of it. ''We didn't do anything that was reckless or that we thought would violate state law,'' Gallop said. ``I think the city was successful in raising awareness that guns need to be stored safely.'' The appellate court ruling stands for the entire state, Gallop said, meaning a nearly identical law passed by Miami-Dade County shortly after South Miami's will probably have to be repealed as well. ''At this point, it would be prudent for other cities to not enforce their gun-lock ordinance, and it would probably be prudent for them to repeal it,'' Gallop said.