This isn’t a happy time for anti-gun rights local office holders in the Sunshine State. Most have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into compliance with a new state law that prevents them from having gun regs on their books that are more restrictive than the state’s laws. West Palm Beach mayor Jeri Muoio – who the Palm Beach Post describes as “the ardent anti-gun mayor” - had publicly announced that she was prepared to flout the new law to keep her city hall gun-free. Now, she’s backtracked. Sort of…
Muoio thought she’d dreamed up an ingenious way to avoid complying with the law and continue to prevent citizens from carrying a gun while in city hall.
According to state statute, guns are banned in “any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality or special district.”
City Attorney Claudia McKenna, at a meeting with commissioners last month, said state law clearly bans weapons in “meetings of government bodies.” But she added: “Of course, we have continuous meetings in this building.”
If the tropical paradise of West Palm Beach is anything like most municipal governments in the land of the free, it’s probably true that their overcompensated, underperforming public ‘servants’ are always in meetings. Or maybe it just seems that way to the average citizen trying to get a building permit or pay a parking ticket.
But the new law’s threat of $5,000 fines and possible removal from office appears to have gotten her attention. So, Mayor Muoio, being the ever-faithful servant of the people she is, has come up with another solution. Make gun owners wait to enter the building.
Beginning Oct. 1, when the revised state law goes into effect, anyone with a concealed weapons permit will be allowed to enter city hall. However, the gun owner will have to wait for a police officer to arrive and escort him or her through the building. Visitors must go through a metal detector in West Palm Beach before entering city hall.
“If somebody comes in with a gun, and they’re going to a meeting of a governing body, then they can’t go because that’s strictly prohibited,” Muoio said. “If somebody comes in with a gun and they are going to another kind of meeting, we will permit that and call for a police to escort them. They can choose not to wait for police and take the gun back to their car. I don’t think it’ll be a big wait, we’re coordinating all of that.”
I’m sure she’s coordinating that so as to make any gun owner with the temerity to enter the building his tax dollars support wait a suitably inconvenient amount of time to discourage him from trying it again.
Muoio said she doesn’t expect armed residents to come into city hall often enough that the police department will need to raise its budget or add additional officers.
“I don’t expect this to happen very often, we don’t have much of a history of people coming in with guns,” Muoio said. “If it does happen, it’s not going to be a daily event. Maybe in the beginning if some people try to test us, but it will not be a daily event.”
Muoio obviously thinks gun owners won’t want to endure the inconvenience and wait God-knows-however-long-it-will-take to get a police escort. She’s probably dislocated a shoulder from patting herself on the back over her inventiveness.
But West Palm Beach gun owners may want to test just how well she’s “coordinating” the new program. What would happen if a steady stream of organized gun owners lined up to enter city hall, maybe for nothing more than to get out of the sun and use the facilities, day after day, starting October 1?
The mayor would have two options. The first would be to continue to extend her middle finger at her constituents who choose to protect themselves. She can staff the entry with a minimal number of cops and ignore the growing line of patiently-waiting citizens standing out in the elements who want to enter the building. And the resultant TV cameras covering the newsworthy event.
The other option would be to sufficiently staff the entry with police officers to keep the steady stream of gun-packers flowing. Of course, that would mean diverting law enforcement staff from street duty to babysitting peaceful licensed gun owners at city hall. But that would mean either reduced public safety or hiring more cops.
I’m sure there are more than a few retired gun owners in south Florida with some time on their hands. It’s just an idea, though. I’m sure nothing like that would actually happen. If nothing else, though, it’s an interesting thought experiment.