CLEARWATER — The City Council on Thursday approved a resolution that called on Congress to pass modest gun control measures, but failed to go as far as Mayor George Cretekos had proposed earlier in the week.
Cretekos on Monday, saying the city needed to “do more than thoughts and prayers,” asked the council to support a symbolic call for a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines; for a federal expansion of the “red flag” law and more stringent background check rules.
In a compromise, the five-person council, which includes Cretekos, voted 3-2 to pass a resolution calling for the red flag law expansion and the stricter background checks. But the resolution was softer on the weapons and magazines. Instead of calling for a ban, it called for a “review of laws governing the accessibility of high-capacity ammunition magazines and military-style assault weapons.”
The debate over the resolution was unusually sweeping for the normally municipal-minded council. Council members discussed the U.S. Constitution, America’s founding fathers and the politics of the day.
In the end, Cretekos and Council Members Jay Polglaze and Hoyt Hamilton supported the resolution. David Allbritton and Bob Cundiff voted against it.
Neither resolution defined the term “assault weapons,” which is often hard to pin down, as Council Member Bob Cundiff pointed out. However, Cretekos earlier in the week expressed support for the federal ban on certain weapons that existed from 1994-2004.
The resolution passed by the city Thursday will have no practical effect. (Council members on each side of the debate described it as a “feel-good effort.”) The measure has no legislative teeth, and even if it did, state law has long banned Florida from regulating guns at the local level.
Still, the news of a Republican mayor of a city of well over 100,000 people calling for significant gun control measures made political waves this week. Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic presidential candidate, and Andrew Gillum, the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor, praised Cretekos in tweets.
Thursday, Cretekos acknowledged that the resolution passed by the council was not ideal to him. Still, he said, it would send a message to lawmakers.
“I would like the stronger language, but this government was founded on the ability to compromise,” Cretekos said.