Tampa Mayor Buckhorn says RNC gun loophole is the "stupidest damn discussion"

04/20/12 Janelle Irwin
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Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn got put on the hot seat about logistics surrounding the upcoming Republican National Convention today by members of a non-partisan political club. At a Tiger Bay of Tampa luncheon, the Mayor responded to concerns about the city’s precautions.

To thwart Buckhorn’s concern that there could be chaos from groups like the so-called “anarchists” during the convention in August, Tampa City Council is considering a “Clean Zone”. If passed, it will cover downtown and nearby areas and prohibit items that could be used as a weapon. That includes toy water guns, but not hand guns. The loophole comes from a state law that keeps localities from infringing on gun rights.

“I was wondering what progress you’ve made and if you could expand on that. You know, we need to protect us from the gun-toting liberals.”

Tampa attorney Michael Steinberg asked Buckhorn if a report claiming that he planned to plead with Governor Rick Scott for an exception were true.

“You know, isn’t this the stupidest damn discussion? You think about it. I’m going to ban squirt guns, but I can’t ban hand guns. I wonder sometimes if the NRA hasn’t high-jacked the Florida Legislature. …

“So we’re going to try to get the Governor – the chances of the legislature going into special session to deal with this are slim to none. Maybe none to none. Hopefully the Governor can craft some method by which we can have an exemption from that law for the week of the convention.”

For now, the issue of permitted guns inside the proposed Clean Zone could leave the Mayor’s hands tied. But other parts of the ordinance won’t. Like rules that determine where and for how long protesters can demonstrate. Buckhorn said placing a time limit on protests within certain areas is actually to encourage more free speech because more groups would have access to what the ordinance calls “public viewing areas”. Tiger Bay member Peter Hughes said he trusts that the Mayor is well intentioned, but worries that protest limitations could become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“So, hopefully they plan it and do it right. I just hope they don’t get overly restrictive to the point where the protesters get angry as a result of some of these rules and cause even more of a problem.”

The RNC is expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors to the Tampa Bay Area. 15,000 journalists are expected and Buckhorn touts that as a way to showcase Tampa as a good place to bring companies. So he told the Tiger Bay crowd that he’s working on several beautification projects. To which Sidney Potter – well known in the group as the guy who asks the toughest questions – said that our state and local governments claim they don’t have the money to furnish us with the services that we need.

“Yet here we are spending millions of dollars on palms trees and bicycles and scooters and whatever else you can dream up to spend millions of dollars on to attract – to host a bunch of politicians in our city.”

But even though questions about the RNC dominated conversation, there’s still more going on in Tampa. Michelle Williams, the chief of staff for the Tampa New Black Panthers, recently made a series of racially fueled comments on a radio show. According to audio of that on Glenn Beck’s website, she called for a bounty on George Zimmerman, the man charged with the murder of Sanford teen Trayvon Martin.

“Let me tell you something, the thing that’s about to happen to these honkies, these crackers, these pigs, these pink people, these mother fucking purple people, it has been long overdue.”

Buckhorn expressed his distaste for those statements, but he said it wasn’t something he could reprimand.

“Is she entitled to say whatever she wants to say? Sure. You would hope she would use a little more sense. She chose not to. I think people recognize that kind of language is not only inappropriate, it’s hurtful. As Mayor, I don’t see it as my job to correct everyone’s bad behavior.

Williams has since apologized for her statements and resigned from her position as an appointed committee board member in Hillsborough County. She said her comments were incited by anger over the Trayvon Martin case.

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