File this under the rubric Only in America – sticks, poles and water guns will be banned from the centre of Tampa at the Republican Party’s national convention next August. Guns, however, will be allowed. The logic behind that is drawn from the U.S. constitution. How so?
The constitution’s second amendment protects the right of citizens to “keep and bear arms” and that is taken to mean firearms. Sticks, poles and water guns do not enjoy constitutional protection. That, in a nutshell, is the argument the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, used to turn down a request by the mayor of Tampa for guns to be kept away, just for four days, from an event forecast by the organizers to draw at least 50,000 people to the city.
They will include thousands bent on demonstrating against the policies of Mitt Romney, who will be formally nominated as the Republican Party’s candidate for the presidential elections in November. Political conventions and protests make for a volatile mix, which is why Mayor Bob Buckhorn thought the downtown area near the convention center should be a gun-free zone.
That may strike a good many people as plain common sense but Scott is not one of them. The exchange of letters between him and Buckhorn speaks volumes about American attitudes towards guns much of the rest of the world finds baffling and many Americans consider absurd. Said the New York Times in an editorial: “If this situation weren’t so shameful, and so dangerous, it would be absurd.”
To place the matter into context: the mayor, a Democrat, is no anti-gun crusader. He owns one himself and numbers among the estimated 900,000 Florida residents (out of a population of 19 million) who have a state license allowing them to carry a concealed weapon. The governor, a Republican, was elected in 2010 with the support of the Tea Party movement and the endorsement of the National Rifle Association (NRA).