TAMPA, Fla. – Don’t look for a ban on the sale of assault weapons in Hillsborough County anytime soon.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller followed through on a promise to pitch the idea, but it went nowhere.
In fact, his fellow commissioners wanted nothing to do with it.
“I’m going to make a motion. And it could very well cost me in the long run. But if it does it does,” he said during Wednesday’s county commissioner meeting.
Miller says his only regret in suggesting a ban, was that he didn't do it sooner.
“I had to come forth and say what is on my mind," he said. "And I have waited too long. I probably should’ve said this a long time ago."
But Miller was completely alone as he suggested a pair of ordinances.
The silence was deafening as his colleagues wouldn’t even second his motion to discuss it.
Some were worried, perhaps, by a 2011 state law that prohibits local government officials from enacting their own gun rules.
The law carries a $5,000 fine - and possible removal from office if they do.
“I mean, I’ve jokingly said that this was kind of a Charles Bronson move today," fellow commissioner Al Higginbotham told Miller. "Because it could have serious consequences for you politically, if the Governor were to step in,”
County Attorney Chip Fletcher had a copy of an opinion letter with him, which Fletcher sent to commissioners in 2013, warning them of possible penalties.
But that same memo told the commission they could legally extend the county’s waiting period for gun purchases from three days to five. So commissioners voted to take the first step toward doing that.
Only Commissioner Stacy White voted ‘no’, pointing out the five-day waiting period in Parkland.
“Unfortunately, was ineffective in Broward County,” she said.
Fletcher does not believe Miller will get in any legal trouble for what he did Wednesday, since the state law specifically prohibits passing or actually enacting a local gun law - not just proposing or discussing it.
“I’m not worried about anything,” said Miller. “If the governor wants to remove me that is right. He has a lot to do that. If he wants to fine me, he can. But I have the right to stand up and say what I want to say.”
Asked whether he intends to bring this up again in front of the county commission again, Miller said probably not, adding that he intends to go to state legislators and ask them to undo the law that makes it difficult for local elected officials to discuss gun reform.
“If you’re not going to do it there in Tallahassee, let us do it here," he said.
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