Be advised if you plan on attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida this summer. You can’t bring your water gun to the designated protest zones, but your concealed pistol? That’s just fine, according to an article in the Tampa Bay Times.
Under Florida Statute 790.33, local municipalities are forbidden to make or pass any restrictions on the “sale, purchase, transfer, taxation, manufacture, ownership, possession, storage or transportation of guns or ammunition.” So, when Tampa city officials attempted to regulate gun possession with the so-called “Clean Zones” around the proposed convention site, they found that they were already overruled.
“Even if we tried to regulate it, it would be null and void,” City Attorney Jim Shimberg told the Times.
Assistant City Attorney Mauricio Rodriguez said, “”It was just kind of common sense. We felt if we’re going to regulate people carrying sticks and poles, why wouldn’t we regulate people carrying firearms, because those could pose significant risks to police and other protesters.”
But, facing disciplinary action by the state, including “judgments of up to $100,000 against local governments that enforce local gun ordinances” and action against local officials that could include removal from office, fines of up to $5,000, and denial of representation by city or county attorneys, Tampa legislators backed down.
The outlines of the “Clean Zone” have not been set, but it is expected to cover all of downtown Tampa, the Ybor City neighborhood, and several other areas. Within the zone is the protest area, where demonstrators will be screened to keep out weapons and other potentially hazardous items.
The city has placed limits on the size and duration of parades and rallies, as well as restrictions as to where and when gatherings can be held. Derek Netwon of the Florida ACLU says that the civil liberties group has a number of concerns about the city’s handling of potential protesters, and that ACLU attorneys are looking over the current list of rules.
“We have concerns any time there’s an attempt to restrict speech,” said Newton, and that the organization would make its findings public as soon as the legal review is complete.
No firearms except those belonging to on-duty law-enforcement personnel will be allowed inside the convention. The U.S. Secret Service has the authority to establish and maintain its own secure perimeter within the convention area.
The 2012 Republican National Convention will be held August 27-30.
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