Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Political pandering, not guns biggest threat to GOP convention

By DeWayne Wickham

TAMPA - Maybe if the request to expand the no-concealed-weapons zone in this city during the Republican National Convention had come from someone less conflicted over this issue, it might have generated a different response.

Maybe if that request had gone to someone less inclined to engage in political pandering, it might have been approved.

But as it is, it was Tampa Democratic Mayor Bob Buckhorn who sent a letter to Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott asking him to ban the carrying of concealed weapons in areas of this city's downtown where protests are expected during the four-day meeting, Aug. 27-30.

In his letter, Buckhorn, who has a permit to carry his .38-caiber revolver, told the governor that people who legally carry hidden weapons usually don't "pose a significant threat to the public." But in "the potentially contentious environment surrounding the (Republican convention), a firearm unnecessarily increases the threat of imminent harm and injury to the residents and visitors of the city," the mayor said.

 During the convention, thousands of protesters will descend upon Tampa, which expects as many as 50,000 people to be drawn to the GOP's quadrennial gathering. City officials hope to herd protesters into an "event zone" where demonstrations will be limited to 90 minutes.

The City Council also is considering an ordinance that would ban people from bringing a long list of things that could be used as a weapon into this area. Among the items on this list are hammers, sticks, switch blades, nun-chucks, BB guns and containers with fecal matter, urine, blood and other bodily fluids.
But any of the more than 900,000 Floridians with a concealed weapons permit will be allowed to bring a gun into the event area.

Although the Secret Service won't allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to bring their gun inside the security zone it will throw up around the convention site, Scott rejected Buckhorn's request to expand the ban to areas of the city where local police might encounter protesters.

"The short answer to your question is found in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," which protects the right "to keep and bear arms," Scott work Buckhorn. His public response to the mayor panders to the GOP's right wing. The governor's failure to challenge the Secret Service's gun ban is a concession to good sense.

But before anyone could accuse Scott of waffling, Buckhorn issued a wavering statement of his own.

"My job as mayor first and foremose is to protect the people of my city, and the law enforcement (officers) who serve on the front lines," the mayor said. "I believe that there is no reason to have a concealed firearm in downtown Tampa that week. And, to be clear, I am far less concerned with those who have concealed weapons permits than the ones who may somehow acquire a weapon and use it to create mayhem."

No, Mr. Mayor, you are not being clear. The obvious intent of the gun ban you requested was to stop people with concealed weapons permits from bringing their guns downtown during the GOP convention. To say now that your real concern is to stop those who might "somehow" illegally posses a gun and "use it to create mayhem" is to imply that those who are intent on causing trouble would abide by a gun ban.

All of this suggests that, more than anything else, what's needed to safeguard this city during the GOP convention is a ban on pandering politicians.

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