Fred Grimm put it acidly in a piece for the Miami Herald Wednesday: “Mindful of the “potentially contentious environment” that comes with so many overwrought protesters converging on a national political convention, the city of Tampa has banned a number of items the last four days of August. Don’t come messing around the Republican National Convention with an ‘air rifle, air pistol, paintball rifle, explosive blasting cap, switchblade, hatchet, ax, slingshot, blackjack, metal knuckles, nunchakus, mace, iron buckle, ax handle, chain, crowbar, hammer, shovel or any club or bludgeon.’ All this along with ‘any other instrumentality used or intended to be used to cause physical or personal damage.’ Except, of course, for the most obvious instrument intended to cause physical or personal damage. The city didn’t prohibit guns. It can’t.”
Gov. Rick Scott has stuck to his guns on, well, guns as he declined a request from Tampa’s mayor to ban firearms from the city’s downtown for the Republican National Convention Aug. 27-30.
Responding to a May 1 request by Mayor Bob Buckhorn to temporarily suspend Florida statutes prohibiting local gun laws stricter than the state’s, Scott said conventions and firearms go way back and he found no reason to change that now.
“You note that the city’s temporary (security) ordinance regulates ‘sticks, poles, and water guns,’ but that firearms are a ‘noticeable item missing from the city’s temporary, ordinance,” Scott said in a letter. “Firearms are noticeably included, however, in the Second Amendment.”
The Tampa convention is a national security event. Guns are prohibited within the convention center itself and in a safe zone immediately surrounding the facility. Security for that venue is the responsibility of the U.S. Secret Service.
In 2011, Florida lawmakers approved a measure prohibiting local governments from enacting and enforcing gun ordinances that were stricter than state law. Scott signed the measure, which sent local governments scurrying to remove local restrictions that ran afoul of the new law.
Tampa city officials have been urging the governor to temporarily suspend the state law so that a wider no-gun perimeter could be established in downtown Tampa, including areas that will be used by protestors during the four-day event that begins Aug. 27.
The request comes as Florida finds itself in the spotlight following the death in February of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black teenager who was shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer in a gated community in Sanford. The shooting has sparked a national debate of the state’s ‘stand your ground’ law, but the debate has spilled over into other issues regarding gun ownership. More than 800,000 Floridians have permits to carry concealed weapons.
Buckhorn, a gun owner who has a concealed weapons permit, said he’s not worried about law abiding citizens with concealed weapons permits but those who may choose to bring guns into the venue who have not been vetted, or may be carrying their weapons illegally.
Buckhorn said the governor would be within his rights to temporarily rescind the state law, adding that the safety of citizens and visitors during the four-day event would be enhanced. Scott, however, said political conventions through the ages have been opportunities for citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights. He saw no reason to curtail the protections offered by the Second Amendment to ensure the rights bestowed under the First.
“Our fundamental right to keep and bear arms has coexisted with those freedoms for as long, and I see no reason to depart from that tradition this year,” Scott concluded.
–Michael Peltier, News Service of Florida and FlaglerLive