By Michael Peltier
Tallahassee, Florida (Reuters) - Florida Governor Rick Scott has rejected a request by Tampa's mayor to allow local authorities to ban guns from the city's downtown during the Republican National Convention in August.
Citing Second Amendment protections in the U.S. Constitution, Scott told Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn conventions and guns have co-existed since the nation's birth and would continue to do so during the four-day event beginning August 27.
"It is unclear how disarming law-abiding citizens would better protect them from the dangers and threats posed by those who would flout the law," the Republican governor said in a letter on Tuesday.
Local officials need Scott's permission to enact the temporary restrictions after state lawmakers last year passed a measure that prohibits local governments from adopting gun ordinances that are stricter than state law.
Florida has some of the most lenient gun laws in the United States and by some counts leads the nation in gun ownership, with about 6.5 percent of all adults licensed to carry a concealed weapon, state records show.
New applications for concealed gun permits have quadrupled since 1998.
In a letter to Scott, Buckhorn said the Tampa City Council had banned a host of items from the area surrounding the convention facility, a list that includes water guns, poles and pieces of wood.
"One noticeable item missing from the city's temporary ordinance is firearms," Buckhorn wrote. "In the potentially contentious environment surrounding the RNC, a firearm unnecessarily increases the threat of imminent harm and injury to the residents and visitors to the city."
DEMOCRATS IN CHARLOTTE
Scott said he was confident law enforcement officials, who are expected to number nearly 4,000, would be able to protect the public without having to enforce a blanket gun ban.
That city officials have banned other items is irrelevant, he said. "The choice to allow the government to ban sticks, poles but not firearms, is one that the people made in enacting their state and federal constitutions," Scott wrote.
Weapons will not be allowed in the convention center itself or in the immediate area surrounding the site. Security in that venue is being handled by the U.S. Secret Service.
The City Council wants to extend the restrictions to all of downtown, including areas that have been designated zones for protesters expected at the event.
"As governor, you have the duty to meet dangers presented by events such as the RNC where there is a threat of substantial injury and harm to Florida residents and visitors to the state," Buckhorn wrote.
Officials in North Carolina are facing some of the same issues for the Democratic convention in Charlotte.
North Carolina state law is not quite as permissive of guns as Florida law. Guns cannot be carried at a demonstration or a parade in North Carolina, but are allowed if there is no demonstration, officials said.
The Charlotte City Council in January passed an ordinance allowing it to ban dozens of items that could be used as weapons during the convention.
"We will continue to evaluate every option to ensure a safe environment for our residents, demonstrators and everyone attending the convention," Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx said through a spokesman.
(Additional Reporting by Harriet McLeod; editing by David Adams and Todd Eastham)