No prohibition on guns for neighborhood watch volunteers, Sanford police chief says



SANFORD, Fla. - The Sanford police chief is backtracking after telling Eyewitness News last week that he planned to ban the use of weapons by neighborhood watch volunteers.

A week ago, the chief said he would prohibit anyone representing themselves as a neighborhood watch volunteer from carrying a weapon while doing so.

Smith reversed course and said Tuesday there will not be anything in writing prohibiting neighborhood watch volunteers from carrying guns.

Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith held a press conference Tuesday to clarify statements he made to Eyewitness News last week about banning neighborhood watch volunteers from carrying guns.

The proposed rule came after George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin while working as a watch captain in Sanford.

Channel 9's Karla Ray asked Smith if they are asking neighborhood watch captains not to carry guns.

"We are saying this -- neighborhood watch was never meant or purposed for people to carry a gun," Smith said.

Ray asked if it would be put in writing. Smith repeated his statement.

Ray asked again.

"This is basically putting an informal rule that has been unwritten in the past, this is putting it in writing?" Ray asked.

"Essentially," Smith said.

Then the chief backtracked.

"Putting it in writing -- when you see the handbook you won't see anything in there with regards to carrying a weapon. There's nothing in there that reflects that," Smith said.

"So there will not be something in writing for neighborhood watch captains and volunteers," Ray asked.

"Yes," Smith said.

"There will be or not?" Ray said.

"There will not," Smith said.

Sanford residents packed a neighborhood watch meeting Tuesday night to hear about the new handbook.

"Listen, (the) Sanford police department isn't asking you to put your firearms down. In this capacity, if you choose to have a firearm it's your right," Smith said.