Palm Beach County Democrats back bills to bar guns from public buildingsby Dara Kam | January 11th, 2012
Trying to fix what they call a glitch in a state gun law that went into effect in October, two Delray Beach Democrats are pushing a measure that would make it illegal to bring firearms into child care centers and public buildings.
Sen. Maria Sachs and Rep. Lori Berman filed bills that would change a new law approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott that went into effect in October. The new law, which includes civil penalties and removal from office for local officials who ignore it, forced state agencies, municipalities and counties such as Palm Beach to scrap hundreds of measures dealing with guns.
After the law went into effect, state police were also forced to reverse their policy and allow firearms to be brought into the Capitol although weapons are still barred from legislative committee meetings. The same law applies to local government meetings – guns are permitted in the building but not where officials are publicly gathered.“The same rule should apply to the building where the meeting is taking place,” Berman said.
Under the new law, people are allowed to bring guns into child care centers but are still barred from bringing them into public schools or college and university campuses.“If you’re not allowed to carry a gun into a school where children are five years old, I’m sure the law should extend to those who are four, or three or two,” Sachs, a former prosecutor, said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
The Palm Beach County Commission, which unanimously voted to support the bills (SB 1340, HB 1087), last month filed a lawsuit against Scott and others over the law, arguing that it is unconstitutional and that the sanctions “are simply a form of political bullying that serves no governmental purpose” and have a “chilling effect.”
Commissioner Shelley Vana, a former state representative, stood beside Berman and Sachs at a press conference announcing the proposals this morning.
She said their effort will make Floridians, especially children, safer and called it “another major step in rectifying a tremendous wrong and helping local governments keep their citizens safe.”
The measures are unlikely to gain traction in the GOP-dominated legislature, especially in an election year. The National Rifle Association pushed the new law last year.
But Sachs said the issue is one of public safety, not partisanship.
“I know Palm Beach is a pretty progressive county…but I know that every other county will follow us,” she said.