The mayors of Tampa Bay's three largest cities say state lawmakers have stripped them of the power they need to assure their residents are safe from gun violence.
"People are worried after Parkland, and rightfully so," said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. "I have to tell them that there's nothing we can do."
Kriseman is referring to a 2011 law, signed by Gov. Rick Scott, that allows Florida's governor to remove an elected official who violates the ban on local firearms rules and impose a $5,000 fine, essentially stripping cities of the ability to regulate guns.
"It's really outrageous," Kriseman said.
He pointed to a case in 2015 when a Lakewood Estates man set up a backyard shooting range, and city officials couldn't do much to stop him.
"Our hands were tied," Kriseman said. "Having a backyard gun range in a rural community may be fine because there might be miles between houses. But not in an urban setting. That doesn't make any sense."
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the 2011 law shows how untethered from reality the debate over firearms has become in Florida.
"The Florida Legislature is owned lock, stock and barrel, to use a gun analogy, by the NRA," Buckhorn said, saying that the law is "onerous" and "egregious."
As an example, Buckhorn cited Gov. Rick Scott's refusal to allow an exemption to the law during the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Paradoxically, the mayor said, Tampa was prohibited from banning concealed weapons from near the convention site, but the city could ban water guns.
"That just tells you how ridiculous this has gotten," Buckhorn said.
The Parkland shooting offers a chance to reexamine the law, Buckhorn said.
" I think many of the legislators are going to be forced to choose between the voices of the children and the demagogues that run the House. And most of them are parents, most of them are Dads and Moms, in faces of those kids, every parent can't help but get their hearts tugged. If those legislators abandon these kids in the interest of ideological purity or because the Speaker told them to, shame on them," Buckhorn said.
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos has long been an advocate for home rule and for cities to have independence in governing its residents.
But he said having a patchwork quilt of laws across the state varying city to city would only sow confusion.
Instead Cretekos, a Republican, called on the state Legislature to "step up to the plate" and strengthen gun control measures for criminal background checks, and mental health and age restrictions.
He also questioned why it should be legal for anybody outside of the military to possess an assault rifle. He said it's the state's responsibility to address the legal weaknesses to protect citizens in every city.
"I don't look at this as a partisan issue," Cretekos said. "I understand the Constitution says you have a right to bear arms. But sometimes you have to use some common sense. With mass murder of children, of adults, we can do a better job."