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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Dec. 21, 201112:00 PM EST

Berman files bill to restore some gun exceptions

by: Michael Peltier

Months after lawmakers approved a measure to overrule cities and counties with get-tough gun laws, a Palm Beach County lawmaker on Tuesday introduced a bill to begin restoring some limits on where residents can carry guns.

Saying she hopes to at least generate debate, Rep. Lori Berman (D-Delray Beach) filed a proposal (HB 1087) to bar hand guns from child care care centers and government buildings.

Lawmakers earlier this year passed HB 45, which prevents counties and municipalities from enacting gun ordinances stricter than the state.

The bill prompted many cities to repeal a host of laws or face fines. Berman said it has led to a wholesale abolition of local gun ordinances that has caused “a gaping hole” she contends was unintended by state lawmakers.

The bill would prevent the carrying of concealed weapons in most county, city and school buildings. Sen. Maria Sachs (D-Boca Raton) is expected to file a Senate version.

Berman said she filed the bill after consulting with Palm Beach County officials, who were forced to rescind a number of local gun restrictions following the bill’s passage earlier this year.

Local officials included county commissioners Shelley Vana and Burt Aaronson, Tax Collector Anne Gannon and West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio.

“We must protect our children when parents enroll them in a child care facility,” Aaronson said in a statement. “Guns do not belong there. We must protect the people who visit their local government offices. Guns do not belong there.”

Backers of last year’s bill defended it as a simple requirement — that state law should trump local law. In several instances, backers said, local governments have enacted differing laws, which was confusing to gun owners and also simply bad policy. It also allowed areas where local leaders disagreed with the “law of the land” in the state to skirt the law, they said.

“The only thing this bill punishes is arrogance,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) and the bill’s sponsor, said during debate over the issue.

Lawmakers last session passed two measures pushed by gun rights activists. Along with HB 45, they passed another measure (HB 155) that limits a doctor’s ability to ask questions about gun ownership.

House Democrats slammed the measures for favoring the rights of gun owners over a doctor’s interest in protecting patients, particularly children, and the rights of counties and cities to pass ordinances to protect the safety of their residents.

HB 155 limits a doctor from asking a patient about gun ownership if it’s not relevant to the patient’s care, and prevents the doctor from noting gun ownership in a patient’s medical file unless the information is pertinent to the patient’s safety or the safety of others.

That measure has prompted a lawsuit. In June, a group of physicians filed suit in a Miami federal court to nullify a controversial measure. In September, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke barred enforcement of the ban while the lawsuit winds its way through the court.

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