Friday, June 22, 2018
Politics

Ban on assault weapon sales proposed for Hillsborough County

TAMPA — A Hillsborough County Commissioner is calling for the county to ban the sale of assault-style weapons and increase the waiting period to purchase a gun to five days.

Commissioner Les Miller also wants to make it a misdemeanor for anyone to make a threat against a Hillsborough County school, including on social media.

"There’s no need for anyone to be owning assault weapons like the ones utilized in these murders in schools or night clubs," Miller said. "The weapon is more powerful than what our law enforcement has. Something has got to happen."

FROM TALLAHASSEE: Black lawmakers: Armed teachers will increase Florida’s gun dangers

Miller’s proposal was added Thursday evening to the agenda for the county commission’s meeting next week on March 7.

The call for action comes in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Nicholas Cruz, used a semi-automatic AR-15 rile to kill 17 students and teachers at the school, authorities said.

A local prohibition on assault-style weapons is unlikely. The county attorney already determined in 2013 that commissioners don’t have that power. The board’s make up, five Republicans to two Democrats, adds to the uncertainty.

However, counties can implement a waiting period of up to five days to purchase a handgun. Hillsborough’s existing wait period is three days.

MORE COVERAGE: Gun package in deep trouble in divided Florida House

Miller is also acting in the face of a 2011 state law that prohibits localities from enacting their own gun rules and threatens any local official who tries to pass one with a $5,000 fine. That law also says the Florida governor can remove mayors and commissioners who buck the state.

Another Florida locality, Coral Gables, is challenging that law.

"If I’m fined, I’m fined. If there’s an attempt to remove me from office, then there’s an attempt to remove me from office," Miller said. "As long as I can look in the mirror and say, ‘Les Miller, you did the right thing,’ I’ve satisfied myself."

In the state House of Representatives throughout the late 1990s, Miller often backed similar weapons bans. Part of it is personal. In 1997, Miller’s son was one of five men shot at a Florida A&M University party on the eve of graduation. The bullet went through the lung of Lesley ``Trey’’ Miller III, but he survived.

"Why couldn’t we have done it then?" Commissioner Les Miller said Thursday. "Would it have stopped this young man from going into the school in Parkland? Would it have stopped Orlando? We don’t know, but there’s a good chance it may have."

Miller said he is pessimistic that Congress or the legislature will take any action on gun control.

MORE COVERAGE: Were Parkland families used or helped? Distrust grows over gun legislation.

Lawmakers in Tallahassee are debating whether to arm teachers and impose new age restrictions on guns but have already rejected a similar ban on military-style weapons. A bipartisan group of Senators met with President Donald Trump Wednesday to discuss potential compromises, but whether anything comes of it remains to be seen.

As Florida’s fourth largest county, Miller hopes to set an example.

"Commissioners have to see something in their hearts to say this has to stop," he said. "Hopefully other counties will see it and hopefully the Legislature will see it."

Times senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Steve Contorno at [email protected] Follow @scontorno.

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