Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Commission Votes with Abundance of Wimpiness

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Commission Votes with Abundance of Wimpiness

Article excerpt

COMMENTARY

Sometimes the Sarasota City Commission is just embarrassing.

Whatever you may think about the notion of restricting or controlling ownership of semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, the debate should be focused on obvious key questions.

For instance: Would restrictions save lives? Can they be done without violating the Second Amendment? Might the effort just inspire more AR-15 sales?

City manager Tom Barwin was apparently shooting from the hip when he urged the City Commission on Monday to pass a resolution asking state lawmakers to ban sales of some military-style weapons. Certainly he had not vetted his idea with city attorney Bob Fournier, or Barwin might have avoided the fiasco of nervous handwringing that ensued after Fournier weighed in at the meeting with a warning.

I've never known a city attorney I respect as much as Fournier for both sound legal advice and general good sense and good attitude. But this time, I think and much hope his advice was off base.

If I'm wrong, then the law is truly an ass.

What Fournier said was that even though he sees nothing unlawful or improper about a city commission passing a resolution urging action by the Legislature, there was a good possibility the National Rifle Association or some local gun rights advocates would respond by filing a lawsuit claiming otherwise. Fournier advised the commission to weigh that likelihood heavily because, he said, it could be an expensive lawsuit to fight.

I'd like to think such a lawsuit would be tossed from court in a heartbeat by any judge with half a brain or an ounce of common sense.

But Fournier's warning had it that such a case might well require a full-blown and expensive trial, thanks to some possibly unclear wording that is tucked into the state statute that bans local government officials from enacting any sort of local gun control laws or policies.

Common sense tells me that what the City Commission was considering was perfectly in line with the state statute. Commissioners know they

can't ban firearms or legislate anything about them. But they can surely make suggestions and requests to state lawmakers who can. …

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