Water Guns Banned, Handguns Allowed at GOP Convention
In the politically-charged and likely protest-filled streets of Tampa, Fla., during the Republican National Convention in August, water guns will be strictly prohibited. Concealed handguns, on the other hand, will be perfectly legal.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said this week that banning handguns from downtown Tampa during the convention, as the city's Mayor Bob Buckhorn requested, "would surely violate the Second Amendment."
"It is unclear how disarming law-abiding citizens would better protect them from the dangers and threats posed by those who would flout the law," Scott said in a letter to Buckhorn Tuesday, emphasizing the words "law-abiding." "It is at just such times that the constitutional right of self defense is most precious and must be protected from government overreach."
Buckhorn said today that he was "disappointed" by Scott's decision, but that the city will "plan and train accordingly."
Tampa officials are expecting thousands of protesters to descend on the Florida metropolis for the GOP convention. While no handguns will be allowed inside the convention, which is being protected by the Secret Service, concealed carry license-holders will be able to carry their weapons in the streets surrounding the convention.
They will not, however, be able to have "super soaker" water guns, sticks, poles, portable shields or glass bottles.
Buckhorn said last month that the state law, which prohibits the city from temporarily banning handguns, makes the city "look silly" because officials can prohibit water guns but not real ones, The Associated Press reported.
"There is no reason to have a concealed firearm in downtown Tampa that week," Buckhorn said in Wednesday's statement. "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."
James Davis, a spokesman for the Republican National Convention, said party officials are not worried that concealed handguns will create security problems.
"We think we are going to have a safe and successful convention," Davis said. "The local police and Secret Service will make sure of that."
The city plans to have 4,000 law enforcement personnel in the downtown area during the party convention, a move Buckhorn said would create "safe environment" where "a firearm should not be necessary for self-defense."
The Republican National Convention will be held at the Tampa Bay Times Arena, Aug. 27-30.