BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. - A new state law taking effect this Fall has cities and counties scrambling to change their rules to allow guns in parks and other public places.
For years, the state has said it was the only level of government allowed to regulate firearms, but since then, some cities and counties have kept their old rules. This year, lawmakers handed down strict penalties for offending local governments, which are now trying to pull any ordinances regarding guns and ammuntion from their books.
The city of Bonita Springs is expected this week to approve changes to an ordinance currently banning guns and other weapons from parks.
City Attorney Audrey Vance says they're removing firearms from that ban list to comply with the state.
"Because of what the Florida Legislature put in for penalties, if we failed to take it out of the ordinance -- we felt like we had no other choice," Vance says.
Vance says possible penalties for leaving their ordinance as it is includes:
- A $5,000 fine per official enforcing the rule
- Attorney fees and up to $100,000 in damages if someone feels their rights have been violated and decides to sue
- Removal from public office
The state has set Oct. 1 as the deadline to comply.
Carlos Torrez, a father of three, says he fears parks might not be the same if licensed gun owners are allowed to carry firearms on the property.
"Parks are some of the few places that kids can feel safe in," Torrez says. "All it takes is just one mistake."
Other park visitors, like David Camp, say the state shouldn't tell local governments how to control guns, but feel gun owners have rights too.
"If they have a concealed weapons permit, I don't see why it should be a big problem," Camp says.