Gardens feels helpless: Official didn’t know about gun show in town days after Douglas massacre

Emotional Palm Beach Gardens City Council members expressed anger at their helplessness to restrict gun sales in the wake of the mass shooting two weeks ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

RELATED: Parkland shootings: Governor expects ‘major reform’ on school safety by next week

Councilwoman Rachelle Litt said it’s an example of the effect of the state’s attack on home rule. She had no knowledge of a gun show at the Amara Shrine Temple days after the shooting until she received a Palm Beach Post news alert, nor could she have stopped it if she did, she said.

>>SHRINERS GUN SHOW: Gardens gun show faces ‘awkward’ timing

She has no control over “what type of murder machines” can be sold in the city because that power is reserved for state lawmakers, she said.

RELATED: South Broward students walk out of class, calling for gun control

A 2011 state law imposes fines on municipalities and counties that pass and enforce their own gun and ammunition laws. Mayors, councils and commission members can be hit with a personal $5,000 fine and removed by the governor if they violate the law.

RELATED: How youngsters at this school are honoring Stoneman Douglas survivors

The law was intended to protect gun owners from a patchwork of regulations that vary county to county. But it also forced the repeal of ordinances banning guns in government buildings and local parks.

Litt said her nieces graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and her sister and brother-in-law live across the street.

“But for the grace of God, it didn’t happen here. This time,” she said during a somber City Council meeting Thursday.

Vice Mayor Mark Marciano said even his hairdresser asked him what they were going to do about guns. She threatened that she wasn’t going to shop at The Gardens Mall anymore if Dick’s Sporting Goods follows through on its plans to sell guns in the second-floor space it wants to sublease from Sears, he said.

“We feel the same anger that everybody else does, and helplessness,” Marciano said. 

The parents of one of the girls who died in the shooting were recently at a soccer tournament with his family, he said, becoming choked with emotion. 

This week, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that it would stop selling assault rifles and high-capacity magazines at its 36 Field & Stream stores. The company already stopped selling military-style weapons at Dick’s after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

The announcement does little to allay City Manager Ron Ferris’ fears about having guns and ammunition at the mall, which sees 8 to 10 million visitors each year.

“That’s certainly a step in the right direction,” Ferris said. “However, any sale of firearms inside the mall - it presents an opportunity that gives me a great concern for public safety.”

A wreath of red, white and blue flowers “in memory of the victims of Parkland, FL” stood outside the City Hall entrance before Thursday night’s council meeting. Mayor Maria Marino began the meeting by reading a proclamation naming Feb. 14  “A Day to Remember.” 

The proclamation included the names of the 17 people killed when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz brought an AR-15 into his former school and started shooting. 

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