Permitted handguns will be allowed in RNC's 'clean zone'
TAMPA - Hoping to head off violent protesters during the Republican National Convention, Mayor Bob Buckhorn has proposed a litany of items that will be considered security threats during the week-long event. The list runs from air pistols to water pistols and also includes items such as masks, plastic or metal pipe and string more than six inches long. Conspicuously absent from the list of potential weapons: Firearms. That's because state law bans local governments from placing any restrictions on the carrying of guns in public spaces."If we'd tried to regulate guns, it wouldn't have worked," said City Attorney Jim Shimberg. Mauricio Rodriguez, the assistant city attorney who wrote the ordinance, said early drafts included limits on handguns – until someone mentioned Chapter 790 of Florida Statutes. "Any local ordinance that regulates guns is void," Shimberg said last week. Guns will be banned from the security zone the Secret Service will set up around the convention site, Shimberg said.But outside that perimeter, in the area Buckhorn as labeled "the clean zone," state gun laws will prevail. State law bans civilians from openly carrying handguns. But anyone – even protesters banned by the proposed city ordinance from wielding a piece of wood larger than a ruler – may carry a concealed handgun if they're licensed to do so. Wesley Chapel gun-control advocate Arthur Hayhoe said the exemption is another example of the National Rifle Association getting what it wants from the Florida Legislature. But he also said he sees less risk from protesters than potentially from gun-packing conventioneers. "You're going to get a lot of upset people," Hayhoe said of protesters. "But I don't think that many of the people at that end of the spectrum carry guns anyway. This is a Republican thing." Florida State Fair officials got a reminder of the law this year. After gun rights groups complained to the state, fair officials changed their policy, allowing people with concealed weapons permits to bring in firearms. Signs that previously read "No Weapons," were changed to "No Unlawful Weapons." The city council will take up the protester restrictions when it meets at 9 a.m. Thursday.
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