Gunned down: Lee attorney says anti-firearms signs at beaches must go Naples Daily News
Lee County is misrepresenting the law at its parks by posting signs prohibiting firearms, an attorney says.
Patrick Buckley of Fort Myers is also a National Rifle Association firearms instructor who teaches concealed weapons permit classes, telling people all the time where they can and cannot carry a firearm in Florida.
One of the places they can is county parks.
“The statute is clear as crystal,” Buckley said.
Buckley came across the issue when he took a family weekend trip to county-owned Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel.
“No Open Fires, Alcoholic Beverages or Firearms” said the sign at the parking lot.
Buckley said he knows better, and now so does the county. He wrote a letter to county officials explaining the law and the conflict. The state concealed weapons law specifically supersedes any county or city ordinance, meaning the county doesn’t have the legal authority to prohibit lawfully carried guns from its parks.
“That is correct,” assistant county attorney Jed Schneck said. “Certainly our ordinance is in conflict with state law.”
Parks director Barbara Manzo said that she has that opinion from the county attorney’s office. She was at an annual park administrators meeting in Orlando where she said the issue is a hot topic. Numerous other Florida cities and counties prohibit firearms in their parks.
“We believe there are other statutes that may come into effect,” she said. “I’m speaking to the lobbyists and legislators for parks and rec, and they’re not convinced. There’s a difference of opinion here.”
Not to Buckley. Not to Collier County attorneys, who according to parks administrator Camden Smith had the ordinance changed to remove the firearms prohibition.
“We took it to the attorney and had it reviewed and they determined it couldn’t be enforced,” Smith said.
Not to the handful of other Florida jurisdictions Buckley’s notified - he says he’s batting 1,000.
And not to Interim Lee County Manager Karen Hawes, who wrote back to Buckley agreeing with his assessment.
“Lee County parks and recreation is working on having the signs removed and/or the reference to firearms deleted,” Hawes wrote.
Manzo said that the firearms prohibition is an issue of safety at county parks.
“I’m not doing that until I leave no stone unturned,” she said.
At least two commissioners agreed.
“I think we’re trying to find a balance where people feel safe and we don’t hinder people’s rights,” Lee Commissioner Tammy Hall said.
“We’re a tourist destination, and we want people to feel safe. We won’t continue to conflict with state law.”
“It may be in conflict with state law and unenforceable,” added Lee Commissioner Frank Mann said. “It’s still not a good idea to have guns in a county park.”
Buckley agreed it’s a safety issue, but said he’s safer - as are those around him - when he has his gun.
“Why would we want to make a public park a victimization zone?” he asked. “If someone’s attacked and their firearm is in the car because of the sign I just don’t know how you take that back.”
Hall and Mann both said park-goers would be safer if no guns were allowed. They disagreed in their vehemence.
“There are extremes on both sides,” Hall said.
“(Heck with) him,” Mann responded.
Manzo said she hopes to know more about how the county might keep the signs and the prohibition next week. Buckley said he’ll be interested to hear what it is.
“I do have a problem with a governmental entity misrepresenting the state of the legal order,” he said.
“I do have a problem with the concept of being asked to waive constitutional rights to go to a park. That bothers me at the base of my spine.”
Buckley said he hadn’t expected resistance given his past success.
“If I think they’re forcing my hand in order to protect the community I’d try to sit with the county commissioners and if necessary petition for a writ of mandamus.”
That would amount to a legal order to change the signs.
“Ultimately the county attorneys office will win out on that one,” Hall said. “We’ll have to have signs that are appropriate.”
We need more attorney's like this guy!:congrats: