Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Thursday, January 24, 2013
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City commissioners send anti-assault weapon resolution to Congress

In a unanimous vote after little discussion, the City Commission approved sending a resolution to Congress urging it to enact a new ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition loaders.

"I want to send a message to our congressmen that this discussion needs to take place," said Mayor Craig Cates, who began his comments by announcing that he owns two guns.

Cates, however, added that gun control decisions are out of the city's realm.

"This is not a debate we should be having at our level," he said.

Only one resident spoke against the resolution, saying it was an "attack" on the constitutional right to bear arms.

"I submit the Second Amendment is not under attack; children in schools are," City Commissioner Clayton Lopez said at the panel's meeting at Old City Hall, 510 Greene St. "If this is the first step to dealing with the overall problem, then so be it."

The resolution, first posed to the commission by Police Chief Donie Lee, will go to the Florida Keys' congressional delegate on behalf of the island.

Lee proposed the measure in the immediate days after the Dec. 14 schoolhouse massacre of 20 first-graders and their teachers at Newtown, Conn. by a single gunman.

"When your chief of police says to get these off the streets, you better listen to him," said Commissioner Teri Johnston.

"I have yet to hear one citizen justify why you need an assault weapon. It's a common-sense move for this community. It does not impact the Second Amendment. It still allows people to bear arms."

The resolution supports "legislation banning assault style weapons and high capacity magazines; urging Congress to enact legislation to require mandatory background checks and training in conjunction with every firearm purchase in the United States."

The framers of the Constitution "could not anticipate the destructive power of modern assault weapons," the resolution says.

Officer at HOB?

The unspeakable crime against 6- and 7-year-old children and their caretakers in Connecticut spurred President Barack Obama's $500 million plan to regulate gun ownership.

Along the island chain, residents and their elected officials did what the rest of America did: reconsider security at public schools.

In a second agenda item on Wednesday, commissioners unanimously approved a resolution that directs city staff to work with the schools superintendent and local law enforcement to "safeguard the city's schoolchildren."

Key West High School has had a police officer assigned to the school since the early 1990s. During holidays and the summer, the "school resource officer" patrols the road.

In August, the School Board approved reimbursing the city $74,121 for the police services.

Commissioner Billy Wardlow on Wednesday night said Horace O'Bryant Middle School needs its own officer, too, before it opens in the fall as the city's first and only K-8 public school.

This fall, the HOB midtown campus will grow to about 1,000 students, as the Glynn Archer Elementary School building is emptied and the students move into brand-new classrooms at HOB.

Principal Mike Henriquez attended Wednesday's meeting, and also recommended putting an officer at HOB for student and teacher safety.

HOB had its own school resource office for 1¬½ years, Henriquez said, but the School District lost a big grant and the middle school, which has about 700 kids enrolled, was left without one.

Wardlow said the resolution should focus on HOB, and that the county, the city and the schools should pitch in, given the fact that many students from up the Keys attend school in Key West.

"We have so many different ethnic groups that live in Key West and attend HOB," said Wardlow. "It makes it difficult for an eighth-grader and a kindergartner mingling in a hallway or a restroom."

The commission also:

• Pledged support for the reconstruction of the Florida Keys SPCA shelter on College Road, which was deemed badly in need of repair, and to direct the city manager to deliver a report on the city-owned properties near the shelter. The county has asked the city for more land for the project.

• Approved the debut of the Bone Island Bazaar at the Truman Waterfront this spring. Local attorney Candida Andriole created the event.

• For a six-month trial period, changed the 9 a.m. meeting time of the Key West Bight Management District Board to 5 p.m., at Old City Hall, to encourage more public participation. The Bight Board on Jan. 9 voted 4-3 to change the time.

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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