The police chief in President Trump’s newly declared hometown has the radical idea that assault rifles and other firearms should not be openly carried every place that present state law allows.
Palm Beach Police Chief Nicholas Caristo is urging the Florida state legislature to prohibit people from openly carrying guns within 1,500 feet of government buildings, houses of worship, beaches with lifeguards, and—most particularly—schools. He reasons that kids have enough worries with constant talk of school shootings and active-shooter drills.
“I don’t think there needs to be open-carry near a school where kids are running around,” Caristo said at a public-safety meeting in Palm Beach on Nov. 19.
Caristo was challenged at the meeting by Michael Taylor, regional leader of the gun-rights group Florida Carry Inc. Taylor reported that he had recently walked with his assault rifle past a schoolyard where numerous kids were playing.
“If somebody was going to try and hurt me, whether it be with a knife or another firearm, I should be able to defend myself whether it’s 1,500 feet from a school,” Taylor argued.
Caristo responded, “There is no reasonable explanation to walk by that public school with those kids playing in the playground with your AR-15. I promise those kids are not going to harm you.”
Taylor declared that any official supporting the proposed restrictions is violating the standard oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution.
“All of you officials that have taken an oath, you are failing at your oath and you should be fired,” Taylor said.
At another moment, he said, “They take away the guns. They take away your right to speak. Then guess what? You’re in a socialist, communist country.”
Florida law generally prohibits open-carry. But a loophole permits it when a person is going fishing or camping or hunting. That explains why Taylor and seven of his Florida Carry Inc. pals were carrying fishing poles along with assault rifles and pistols and a Trump MAGA flag when they ambled onto the Royal Park Bridge in March. The bridge is one of two crossings connecting Palm Beach and the mainland.
“We threw our baits over the thing and were waiting for a bite,” he told The Daily Beast on Monday.
The group was almost certainly less interested in catching fish than in attracting attention. Both the Palm Beach Police and West Palm Beach Police responded after alarmed civilians called 911.
“Open-carry with a firearm, law enforcement shows up with a firearm,” Taylor noted.
Caristo was himself so alarmed that he would subsequently call for a change in the law. But Taylor and his pals were within their present rights and went unmolested on the bridge and as they stood in front of Trump Plaza in West Palm Beach that same day. Taylor was wearing a MAGA hat. He had the Trump MAGA flag over his left shoulder, his assault rifle hung from a sling on his right. His Glock 21 semiautomatic pistol was in a holster on his hip.
Taylor had owned no firearms at all until the aftermath of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Valentine’s Day last year. He became part of the upsurge in gun sales that almost invariably accompanies a clamoring for gun control.
“It made me want to basically start accumulating firearms just in case,” he recalled.
The Glock was his first acquisition, followed by the AR-15. He was unable to carry either into the public-safety meeting or a Palm Beach town-hall meeting on the same subject, as both were in a facility where guns are prohibited.
He was able to bring his 6-month-old daughter, Oceana. She lay quietly in her stroller as daddy spoke of his sacred Second Amendment rights and the dangers of America turning communist if they are abridged.
The MAGA accessories aside, Taylor does not expect Trump to weigh in on the gun controversy in his hometown.
“At this point, he’s keeping his mouth shut about anything to do with the Second Amendment,” Taylor said.
Taylor added that he understands why.
“He wants to get re-elected.”
As for Chief Caristo, his spokesman said he was too busy to speak with a reporter, but was careful to emphasize that Caristo is a gun owner and a supporter of the Second Amendment. Caristo simply thinks that weapons should not be carried openly in the vicinity of places where the sight of them is liable to trigger fears of yet another mass shooting.
“It’s just a common-sense thing,” the spokesman, Michael Ogrodnick, said. “Walking by an elementary school with a rifle, that’s ridiculous.”
Talyor remains dissuaded and said he will be hosting another Palm Beach 2nd Amendment Fishing Gathering at the Royal Park Bridge on Jan. 4.
“No better way to start a new year other than a bang,” Taylor said.
Trump generally uses the other bridge coming to and from Mar-a-Lago. Ogrodnick advised Taylor’s group to avoid asserting their Second Amendment guarantees on that crossing if the president is scheduled to traverse it. The right to bear arms does not apply anywhere near the president, wherever that might be.
“I’m pretty sure Secret Service and the sheriff’s office is going to address that long before he gets there,” Ogrodnick said. “You’re looking for attention, you’re going to get it.”