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Florida's Gubernatorial Candidates On Guns, Assault Weapons Ban

(left to right) Orlando businessman Chris King, former North Florida Congresswoman Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, andTallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum met in Tampa for their first gubernatorial debate.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The need for gun reform is top of mind for the four Democratic candidates running for Governor. They discussed that during their first televised debate.

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What constitutes an assault weapon? For Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, that’s an easy question.

“Any gun that can fire off 45 rounds of artillery in less than 60 seconds and snuff out the lives of 20 kids or 49 adults or 17 individuals is a gun that I believe is a weapon of war and does not belong on our city streets,” he said, at the time.

Gillum says he’d like to close any gun loopholes in the state and make sure those deemed mentally ill do not have access to deadly weapons.

“I’ve fought this fight with the NRA, who sued me for our refusal to repeal an ordinance that simply said, ‘you cannot shoot guns in a city park,’” he added. “We’ve got to get back to a commonsensical place on gun laws, where we can make sure we keep our communities, our kids, our neighborhoods, and our state’s safe, away from the kind of gun violence that is ravaging not only our schools, but also our city streets.”

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine says his definition of an assault rifle is very similar to Gillum’s, and he believes in an assault weapons ban.

“The bottom line is this, in my city in Miami Beach we passed a non-binding resolution outlawing assault rifles I think about two years ago,” he said. “We led a march and a rally in Tallahassee with parents and students that we sponsored and brought in. I think that we all agree that we need to eliminate assault rifles. We also need to make sure we have better background checks. We need to make sure unquestionably folks with mental health issues can’t buy weapons in Florida. Hey, it’s not about the Second Amendment. I’m a gun owner and I have a concealed weapons permit. But, we don’t want to have the weakest gun laws in the nation. We want the safest.”

As for former North Florida Congresswoman Gwen Graham, she says, “I am the one person on this stage who has the strongest record on gun safety.”

That’s a phrase Orlando Businessman Chris King disagrees with.

“Congresswoman Graham said she has the strongest record on guns,” he said. “You know in my community, we lost 49 people at the Pulse nightclub and during her time in Congress she never supported an assault weapons ban. I will be a governor that will bring this to the ballot in 2020.”

“He’s [King's] just absolutely wrong,” Graham fired back. “I am committed to getting assault weapons off our streets. We should not have weapons of war on our streets. I was the first candidate on the stage to get the gun sense recognition from Moms Demand Action, and I am the only candidate on the stage where the NRA spent $300,000 to try and beat me. I went to Orlando and I went to Pulse and I spoke to the community after, and two weeks after Pulse, I talked about banning weapons of war. So, he is just wrong in his statement that he just made.”

In the past, King—who also supports an assault weapons ban—and Gillum have both criticized Graham for her stance on guns when she both ran and then served as a Democratic Congresswoman in a mostly Republican district a few years ago.

Graham has since released an ad about the Parkland shooting and her current stance on guns. And, speaking with MSNBC’s Joy Reid last month, Gillum acknowledged Graham’s current gun reform stance.

“I’m pleased to see the Congresswoman now campaigning as a gun reform advocate. I wish she had campaigned that way when she ran for Congress, and I’m hopeful that we’ll understand between the two of those versions of themselves which one is the true one.”

Meanwhile, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Florida Congressman Ron DeSantis will also face off in June for their first debate, nationally televised on Fox. Both Republican gubernatorial candidates are NRA supporters and are pro-gun advocates. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has not yet thrown his hat into the gubernatorial race. Corcoran is against an assault weapons ban, but he did champion Florida’s new gun safety law during this past legislative session. While Putnam says he would not have likely signed off on Florida’s new gun safety law, DeSantis says he would have vetoed the bill—had he been governor.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner .

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