WASHINGTON — Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who throughout his long political career has been staunchly pro-gun rights, said Wednesday that after the Connecticut school slayings, he now backs controls.
He expressed support for a renewed assault weapons ban, a size limit on ammunition clips and tougher background checks.
"We need to have some restrictions, that's pretty obvious to most people," Crist told the Tampa Bay Times prior to testifying before a Senate panel on voting laws. "What do you need a 30-clip magazine for? Not to go hunting deer. I can tell you that because I hunt deer."
Crist recently became a Democrat and is considering a challenge to Gov. Rick Scott, who long has favored gun rights. Scott has refused to comment on gun measures after the Connecticut shootings, saying it is too early to debate.
As recently as 2010, when Crist was running as a Republican for U.S. Senate, he accused rival Marco Rubio of being soft on guns and supporting a waiting period and background checks that were already in state law.
In 2006, Crist painted his GOP gubernatorial rival Tom Gallagher as "anti-gun," and highlighted an endorsement from the National Rifle Association. He appointed NRA favorites to the state Supreme Court and signed into law a bill allowing concealed weapons permit-holders to bring their guns to work — as long as the weapons remained in their vehicles. He also fought legislative efforts to tap into the concealed weapons permit trust fund.
Reminded Wednesday of his past and asked what changed, Crist replied: "We had a wake-up call."
Crist, who last week said he now regrets supporting a Florida ban on gay marriage, will certainly face questions about his convictions if he decides to run for governor in 2014. He defended the shifts.
"It says I'm a guy who is willing to listen, I'm willing to learn. I hope that we all are. I think life is a learning experience and the older you get the more wisdom you can accumulate. ... I have an open mind."