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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Crist seeks black ministers' counsel on recent violence

In a fellowship hall of a 124-year-old Clearwater Baptist church, Charlie Crist asked a small gathering of black and hispanic ministers Saturday to share their thoughts on the tragic violence of the past week.

"Sometimes there are no accidents," said Crist, the former governor who is seeking to relaunch his political career by winning the 13th Congressional District seat.  "It's such an overriding topic and overwhelming. Your thoughts would be most important to me."

For the first half of the hour-long meeting at St. Matthew First Missionary Baptist Church, in the predominantly black North Greenwood community, the ministers preferred to talk about bread and butter issues. Restoring lost summer jobs for youth. Lowering fees in local recreation centers so children from the neighborhood could use them more often. Providing more mentoring to at-risk teens.

Then Shawn McCoy, whose SRM Ministries is based in Clearwater, said he wanted to address the elephant in the room. 

What would you do about the violence that has claimed seven lives in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas this week, he asked Crist. 

Crist said "common sense" gun control measures and better policing were needed.

Keeping assault weapons out of civilian hands, banning 30-round magazine clips and more stringent background checks were necessary reforms, he said 

Why would anyone oppose those limits, he said

"It doesn't make sense to me," Crist said.

Crist criticized Congressional Republicans for resisting gun-control measures pushed by Democrats, who organized an unsuccessful sit-in to pressure GOP leaders to allow a vote.

"John Lewis led the sit-in and they still wouldn't put it up for a vote," Crist said.

In his comments on gun control, Crist didn't mention incumbent Republican David Jolly, his likely opponent in the November general election. Jolly faces retired Marine brigadier general Mark Bircher in the Aug. 30 primary.  Crist is running unopposed as a Democrat after Eric Lynn dropped out of the race to run for a state House seat. 

Last month, Jolly introduced legislation that would prohibit anyone on the FBI's watch list from buying a gun. Those flagged would have a due-process hearing before a judge within a month. 

Konrad McCree Jr, St. Matthew's minister, agreed with Crist on guns. But he wanted to make one thing clear. It is is a stereotype that black people hate the police, he said. 

"I don't hate the police," McCree said. "The violence is a symptom of a much bigger problem. It goes back to proper gun control. Let's deal with the real problem."



[Last modified: Monday, July 11, 2016 12:30pm]


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