Gov. Rick Scott firmly dismissed Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s request that firearms be temporarily banned during the GOP convention in August, saying in a strongly-worded letter that guns would make citizens safer, not pose a threat as Buckhorn suggested.
“We have had political conventions in this country since the dawn of the Republic,” Scott, a gun owner, wrote in a letter dated yesterday. “They are an essential means of furthering our constitutional rights to free speech and to vote. “Our fundamental right to keep and bear arms has coexisted with those freedoms for just as long, and I see no reason to depart from that tradition this year.”
Buckhorn had asked Scott to bar firearms in downtown Tampa, including temporarily restricting people with state-issued concealed carry permits from toting their guns near the convention site. City officials have decided to ban some weapons, including clubs and spears, but state law prohibits them from enacting any ordinances dealing with firearms.
“Normally, licensed firearms carried in accordance with the Florida statute requirements do not pose a significant threat to the public,” Buckhorn wrote in a letter to Scott. “However, in the potentially contentious environment surrounding the RNC, a firearm unnecessarily increases the threat of imminent harm and injury to the residents and visitors of the city.”
Scott, whose task force looking into the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law held its first meeting yesterday, strongly disagreed.
“Like you, I share the concern that ‘violent anti-government protests or other civil unrest’ can pose ‘dangers’ and the ‘threat of substantial injury or harm to Florida residents visitors to the state,’” Scott wrote. “But it is unclear how disarming citizens would better protect them from the dangers and threats posed by those who would
flout the law. It is at just such times that the constitutional right to self defense is most precious and must be protected from government overreach.”
Scott’s rejection of Buckhorn’s request is sure to resonate with Florida gun rights advocates who are up in arms over the governor’s “Citizen Safety and Protection” task force. The panel, headed by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, is examining the Florida “justifiable use of force” chapter of state law that allows individuals to use deadly force when they feel threatened. The National Rifle Association released a statement yesterday saying it would fight to defend Florida’s first-in-the-nation “Stand Your Ground” law and other similar statutes. And the Florida Carry Inc. organization is urging its members to show up at the meetings and contact the panelists to tell them the law should not be changed.
The now-controversial law is the focus of national attention in the aftermath of the Feb. 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin. Sanford neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman claimed he shot the unarmed teenager in self-defense. Special prosecutor Angela Correy, appointed by Scott, arrested Zimmerman on second degree murder charges six weeks after the shooting.