Sarasota commissioners vote down assault rifle resolution

- Before a divided crowd, the Sarasota City Commission voted down a resolution that would have asked lawmakers in Tallahassee and Washington to ban assault weapons.

"This was about making a statement," said Suzanne Atwell, a Sarasota City Commissioner.

Although all five members of the commission seemed to favor the measure itself, it failed 1-4 after the city attorney warned it could have opened the city to lawsuits.

Commissioners heard from both sides of the argument, including from speakers who said they were Tea Party supporters.

"I want to be protected by my gun," said one speaker.

"The problem here is not guns, it's radical Islamic terrorists," said another.

Others were on hand from the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence.

"You don't need those, there are other ways to own guns," said one of their supporters.

Speakers in favor of the resolution were outnumbered by those against 2 to 1.

Yet the city manager, who proposed the resolution, said it is essential for public safety.

"Military grade weapons have no place in our schools, movie theaters, retirement events, parks or really anywhere in community life," said city manager Tom Barwin.

But the city attorney threw cold water on their attempt to make a first-of-its-kind statement, inspired by the death of their resident, 34-year-old Eddie Sotomayor, who was killed in Orlando.

He said it could bring a lawsuit from someone arguing they were harmed by a policy the city was advocating.

The resolution would have been a non-binding statement.

"I think we have an obligation to our residents and to the city and the taxpayers to heed the advice as to what the city attorney has said," argued Shelli Freedland Eddie.

The only to vote in favor was Suzanne Atwell.

"Resolution is the resolve, the passion, the commitment, the courage, to move forward with something you have just about had it with," she said. "This is meaningful words that we hope someone will partner with us."

The resolution may very well be brought back at a future  meeting, but they will ask the Florida attorney general for an opinion first.

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