The 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting were on the minds of South Miami commissioners late Tuesday night when they voted to advocate against assault rifles and semi automatic weapons.
South Miami commissioners rarely agree on anything these days, but the symbolic vote during the commission meeting at City Hall was unanimous. News that Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster AR-15 for the massacre disturbed commissioners. The semi-automatic rifle equipped with 30 bullet magazines is capable of firing high velocity rounds.
Under state law, the city could not enforce an assault-weapons ban. The state Legislature last year authorized fines and private lawsuits by gun owners against public officials who attempt to enforce local gun rules such as bans on guns in parks or city halls. An exception allows cities to prohibit guns from city buildings while a commission meeting is in session.
Every one at City Hall Tuesday agreed with Commissioner Bob Welsh when he said that high-powered weapons were not necessary for law abiding citizens. Mayor Philip Stoddard said he had been shot at twice before, and added that he was probably alive, because the guns did not have repeating ability.
I just hope that the country has had enough, and stands up to the NRA, Commissioner Walter Harris said. The National Rifle Association is a defender of firearm ownership rights.
Commissioners are also considering the possibility of creating a program that would allow gun owners to trade their weapons for Taser stun guns.
Outside of the commission chambers, Police Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro said that he was working on an organized effort to focus on better protecting the city from a similar situation.
In case of a hostage situation, the chief wants reliable data bases, so that his officers have immediate access to the current floor plans of every building in the city, and contact information of a person familiar with them.
It is our job to learn from what happened, Martinez de Castro said. We have to be proactive and be prepared.
The meeting got heated, when commissioners disagreed on reducing the chiefs responsibilities. Commissioners voted 3-2, with Valerie Newman and Joshua Liebman dissenting, to take the parking and code enforcement divisions away from the chief. The responsibilities account for about $8,000 of his pay. Stoddard said their decision was in accordance with the citys code.
Things are working pretty well Why change a good thing? Liebman said. I just see this as personal and political.
Also at the meeting, commissioners agreed to move forward with plans to consolidate the land that will be used to build the Madison Square redevelopment site, a project for affordable residential and commercial property near Southwest 64th Street, between 60th Avenue and 59th Court.
Commissioners also found out the city is still looking for a developer to design and build the Murray Park project, because Di Pompeo Construction Corp. had decided to withdraw from the project.
We have been waiting for a while for them to get Madison Square done, said Rodney Williams, owner of a barber shop in South Miami. Its about time they get something done and we move forward.