Former Gov. Charlie Crist, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and four council members took a stand against gun violence Thursday when the Vocal Majority bus tour stopped in the city.
The bus tour is the inspiration of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly. Neither Giffords nor Kelly was there.
But those who were there carried the anti-gun violence message forward.
Kriseman referred to the candlelit ceremony held on the steps of City Hall after the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Wax dripped onto the hands of mourners, he said. But, look at the hands of the gun lobby and “you will see blood,” the mayor said.
He referred to the nine people who have been killed this year by guns in St. Petersburg and the 276 guns stolen from cars. Not securing a gun is irresponsible gun ownership, he said. The goal is to get bad guns out of the hands of bad people.
The solution, Kriseman said, is to elect representatives who are not afraid of the gun lobby.
“People just need to vote,” Kriseman said, adding that elections are truly about life and death.
St. Petersburg Councilwoman Lisa Wheeler-Bowman began her remarks by listing the names of some of those who have been killed with guns. She concluded with the name of her son, Cabretti Wheeler, 21, who was killed in 2008.
“I have had enough,” Wheeler-Bowman said.
Council chairwoman Amy Foster agreed, saying, “Enough is enough and not one more.”
Council members Darden Rice and Jim Kennedy did not speak.
Crist, a Democrat who is running against Republican David Jolly for the Congressional District 13 seat, said he is a gun owner who also hunts and believes in the Second Amendment.
But, he said, more stringent background checks are needed, and assault weapons should be banned.
The message did not play well with at least one audience member, who wheeled her baby away while talking on her phone: “Yeah, let’s ban all the guns so we can’t protect ourselves. Yeah.”
St. Pete was the fourth stop in the Vocal Majority bus tour. It will run for six weeks and visit 50 cities in 14 states to urge people to vote for those who oppose gun violence.
Sponsoring the tour is Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, which works to elect candidates at every level of public office who show the political courage to stand up to the gun lobby, are passionate about reducing gun violence in our communities, and who commit to taking action once elected.
The group, like the tour, is the creation of Giffords and Kelly.
Giffords suffered a severe brain injury in 2011 when a would-be assassin shot her in the head. Since resigning from Congress in 2012, Giffords and Kelly have worked to reduce gun violence and to elect candidates who see that as a priority.