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Florida Carry sues Gainesville over weapons ban during Richard Spencer visit to UF

By Claire McNeill
Hundreds of protesters march along Hull road in front of the Phillips Center at the University of Florida. [Thursday October 19, 2017] [Photo Luis Santana | Times], LUIS SANTANA | Times

White nationalist Richard Spencer's unwelcome descent upon the University of Florida last month sent the city of Gainesville into a whirlwind of preparations. Fears of violence, like in Charlottesville, led officials to ban weapons, among many other items, in parts of the campus and city.

Now, pro-gun group Florida Carry is suing Gainesville and its manager Anthony Lyons for that weapons ban, saying the city stepped outside its authority.

A lawsuit filed Oct. 19 accuses the city of trampling on constitutional rights. The group argues that Gainesville crossed a line by banning tasers, mace and other weapons, since the city and its manager "should know that they are without authority to regulate the bearing of arms, as only the Legislature may regulate the bearing of arms."

It also says that, after Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Alachua County, only he or the state could lawfully declare a weapons ban.

"Persons deterred from exercising their Second Amendment right to possess defensive weapons for protection suffer an irreparable harm that cannot be compensated by damages," the suit says. It also cites a North Carolina case in which a self-defense weapons ban during a state of emergency was found unconstitutional.

Florida Carry, represented by Jacksonville attorney Eric J. Friday, is asking that the court permanently ban Gainesville from trying to regulate firearms through declarations or other emergency powers. It also asks for attorney's fees and a declaratory judgment.

The group says that these issues are likely to resurface, as Spencer has successfully beaten back legal challenges and continues to seek out other speaking venues.

The Tampa Bay Times has reached out to city officials for comment.