Chris King’s bold plan to prevent gun violence includes 6 percent ‘safety fee’ on ammunition sales

The Democrat envisions a fund designated to research, school safety and intervention programs.
Published June 1, 2018|Updated June 1, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King rolled out a bold gun violence prevention plan Friday that would create a fund designated to research, school safety and intervention programs.

The "Every Kid Fund" for Gun Violence Prevention would have three sources, King said during a roundtable discussion at Allendale United Methodist Church: sales tax revenue from gun and ammunition purchases, a 6 percent "safety fee" on the sale of ammunition, and revenue generated from aspects of King's criminal justice reform plan.

"This is what's not being talked about in the state of Florida and many places," King said of the safety fee.

King, an Orlando entrepreneur who trails in Democratic polls, estimated the fund could generate $50 million, $30 million from the tax and fee revenue and the remainder from proposed policies to end mass incarceration and legalize, regulate and tax marijuana.

The recurring dollars would fund research into what he called a gun violence "epidemic." It would also go toward prevention and intervention programs such as mental health counseling, reimbursement to trauma centers that treat mass shooting victims and school safety.

The announcement comes at a time when school districts across the state have struggled to find the millions of dollars needed to place an armed security guard in every school — a requirement of what many have criticized as an unfunded mandate passed by the Legislature in response to February's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

King, disturbed by the lack of action after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016, credited reforms that have been passed this year not to the governor and Legislature but to politically savvy Stoneman Douglas students.

At the event, there were no shortage of digs lobbed at the National Rifle Association and Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor who King noted once referred to himself as a "proud NRA sellout."

"I think it's very clear he has a record of 20-plus years where he's put his energy into the NRA and the types of ideas they support," King said, "and I would say they've become a pretty negative force in the state of Florida."

Representatives from organizations including Indivisible FL-13, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Women's March Pinellas, along with a few K-12 students and teachers, weighed in with questions and suggestions for the candidate.

They were generally supportive of the plan, but one activist and mother addressed a familiar sentiment toward gun reform during a time when gun violence continues to dominate the national conversation.

"Can it be stopped?" Linda Nelson from Women's March Pinellas asked. "You've got really a big road ahead of you."

"I believe we can make a difference here," King said. "I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't."

King's ideas go well beyond what his three opponents in the Democratic primary for governor have called for.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham want to ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, require background checks for all gun purchases and take away guns from those accused of domestic violence. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has called for a ban on assault rifles and also overturning a state law that prohibits cities and counties from enacting their own gun bans. King supports all those measures, too.

No matter who becomes governor, however, passing additional gun control laws will be a tough task in Florida's Republican-dominated Legislature. Lawmakers spent hours this year debating various bans on military-style rifles, and Republicans blocked each proposal.

Times/Herald staff writer Lawrence Mower contributed.