• 84°

Law allows municipalities to restrict guns

When two brothers showed up at the most recent Charlotte County Board of Supervisors meeting carrying AR-15-style rifles and asking to establish a militia, a couple residents were concerned.
“Where is my constitutional right to come to a government meeting and feel safe,” Kathy Liston said to the board at the end of the meeting. “I could not believe you let those guys stay in here. You need to consider a policy.”
Currently, municipalities may not restrict citizens from carrying guns into municipal buildings, meetings etc. State law restricts guns from state buildings but state law does not allow municipalities to restrict guns from buildings or meetings. The two brothers were well within their rights to carry any type of gun they wished into the Board of Supervisors meeting.
“According to what I have researched, unless the state legislature changes things I don’t know that we can do anything,” Charlotte County Administrator Dan Witt said. “Private entities can do that but I’m not sure you can do that in public buildings.”
But a law currently moving through the General Assembly would change that beginning July 1. SB35 and HB421 have both passed their respective chambers and are waiting to have the differences between the two pieces of legislation hammered out by a conference committee.

The bills are fairly broad allowing municipalities to ban firearms from buildings, parks, and any other property owned by the municipality and used for governmental purposes. The legislation also allows the locality to ban guns from permitted events in the city and to set up metal detectors at the entrances to building or parks to detect firearms.

Once the bill is passed and signed by the governor, municipalities will be able to make decisions about what policies and rules, if any, they want to put in place.

“There are citizens and board members who felt uncomfortable and there are citizens are board members who said, ‘That’s fine. We don’t have an issue with that,’” Witt said. “It’s a divided issue. I think ultimately the board would have to make a decision and vote on it. If they could do it.”