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State government should ban guns at RNC in Tampa

Published: Monday, April 9, 2012

Updated: Monday, April 9, 2012 01:04

Yet another potentially harmful gun regulation law will allow concealed weapons in the “clean zone” surrounding this year’s Republican National Convention (RNC).

Though everything from squirt guns to metal-tipped umbrellas will be prohibited in the clean zone surrounding the downtown Tampa area — including a large protest area, the Tampa Convention Center and the Tampa Bay Times Forum — actual guns are legally allowed.

The insane decision, called “a national embarrassment” by the New York Times, is due to a state statute passed last year that prevents local governments from passing laws that regulate guns, even for the short four days the nationally publicized RNC will cover.

Tampa originally tried to regulate concealed weapons in the clean zone, but could have faced up to $100,000 in fines as well as potential fines and removals for officials enforcing a ban, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

But even if local governments do not have the ability to overturn the ban, the state government should make an exception here-not only for the safety of the Republican candidates, but also for the area residents and visitors.

The Secret Service will set up metal detectors and other security measures in a perimeter surrounding the convention and will prohibit guns, according to the Times. However, the perimeter most likely will not include much of the clean zone or the protest area. It is just as important to protect the presidential candidates as it is to protect those outside the convention who may be watching, protesting or just going about their day.

The 2008 RNC in St. Paul, Minn., saw huge issues with the balance between protesters and the police. In response to suspicions about members of an anarchist group, known as the RNC Welcoming Committee, police were issued no-knock arrest warrants and entered homes in body armor with weapons drawn. Imagine if such events were to happen in Florida, which is also home to the recently publicized “Stand Your Ground” law, and guns were thrown into the mix.

In 2008, protesters in Minnesota smashed the windows of local businesses and slashed the tires of police cars. Tampa is seeking to have a peaceful, 24-hour protest zone near the Forum and would allow groups of 50 or more to march along an official parade route or rally in parks. To prevent more threatening problems than broken windows, it would be in Florida’s best interest to prohibit firearms.

If police can be granted such high power in Minnesota, there is little reason to prevent such intervention in Florida other than lobbying from the gun-rights groups that sparked the law in the first place.

The local government has done all it can to ensure safety, but it is not enough.

It does Tampa little good to ban anything that could even remotely be considered a weapon, such as ladders and “string longer than 6 inches,” if they cannot ban the most potentially dangerous weapons of them all.

It is time for Florida to stop playing politically dealt hands and start worrying about the safety of its citizens. The state has seen too many gun-related tragedies this year to avoid stepping in. It is absurd to bring national embarrassment to the state and to Tampa.

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