Friday, April 20, 2012

Buckhorn at Tiger Bay: Florida gun laws make state "look like a bunch of knuckleheads"

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2012 at 2:21 PM

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Critics of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's rules for protesters inside the RNC "Clean Zone" — as well as stand-up comedians — were given a gift after it became clear that the ordinance could ban a variety of items, but not guns.

State law — a law that Buckhorn calls "absurd" — prohibits local governments from enacting any type of regulations on guns, permitting only the state legislature to craft such measures. Buckhorn further denounced the law today during a Tiger Bay Club appearance at Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center.

"This is the stupidest damn discussion," Buckhorn began after being asked about the issue by Tiger Bay member Michael Steinberg. "I'm gonna ban squirt guns. But I can't ban handguns? I wonder sometimes if the NRA hasn't hijacked the Florida Legislature," eliciting applause from the mostly liberal audience.

Squirt guns are just some of the items that Buckhorn and his legal team want banned from the "clean zone," along with air pistols, masks, plastic and metal pipe and string longer than six inches. Buckhorn says all those items have been used nefariously at past conventions or at other major summits in the States, saying water pistols have been filled with "bodily fluids" aimed at police officers.

As he does whenever asked about the subject, the mayor emphasized his Second Amendment bona fides, saying he is a gun owner, but he added that "this has nothing to do with anybody's ability to arm themselves or to bear arms. Nothing. This is absurd, the fact that local governments can't do anything — we've been preempted to do anything about guns or gun violence, by extension in our local jurisdictions."

Buckhorn said discussions about people bringing in guns to see Kenny Chesney at Raymond James Stadium was equally "stupid."

"The absurdity of this juxtaposition against Stand Your Ground, and the Trayvon Martin situation, has made this state look like a bunch of knuckleheads. We really are subject to public ridicule all over the country, and to think I can't do anything about it is really frustrating."

Buckhorn said he hopes Governor Rick Scott could craft a measure that would give Tampa an exemption from the law for at least the duration of the convention. He said he had no hope that the GOP-led Legislature would do anything about it, and thus wouldn't even dare call for them to meet in a special session to do so.

Mentioning how heated the political divide in the U.S. already is, he said "the last thing that we need, given the heat, given the emotions running somewhat raw in this country at this time, the last thing we need is firearms interjected into that public square," adding,"any responsible gun owner would say the same thing I just said."

The mayor's "Clean Zone" ordinance was rejected by members of the Tampa City Council two weeks ago. Members of his legal team have been working individually with council members since then to craft an ordinance that will get their support. It will come back before them on May 3.

Earlier in his appearance, Buckhorn confessed to poor communications regarding the 60-minute limit on protests by individual groups. To critics, it appears he wants to stifle free speech. But Buckhorn says he simply wants to allow as many different groups the opportunity to speak in the yet to be designated free-speech zone.

"99.9 percent of the good folks who will come here are law-abiding Americans who just want to express themselves, and we will accommodate their view. Those who are coming here to destroy and to disrupt and to cross that line, you are going to jail," he declared.

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