Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Clearwater

Clearwater mayor calls for assault weapons ban: ‘My prayers aren’t working’

However, the Republican’s symbolic resolution will almost certainly fail.
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, a Republican, has asked for a City Council vote on a resolution asking congress for gun control measures. [DOUGLAS CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Sep. 16

CLEARWATER ― George Cretekos, the city’s Republican mayor, urged his fellow City Council members on Monday to support a sweeping resolution calling on Congress to ban “military-style” assault weapons and high capacity magazines; pass a national “red flag” law and expand gun background checks to cover private sales.

“I’ve gone to church, I’ve prayed,” Cretekos said. “My prayers aren’t working.”

Though state lawmakers have long banned Florida cities from regulating firearms on their own ― and the resolution’s passage is very much in doubt ― it was a remarkable symbolic move for the normally politically averse City Council.

“In the past, council and I have stayed away from national issues,” Cretekos said at Monday’s work session. “But I think this issue is something that we need to consider to let people know where we stand as a community to encourage safety.”

The resolution was not unique to the Tampa Bay area. In 2017, St. Petersburg, whose elected government is dominated by Democrats, also called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

But the Clearwater mayor’s initiative was significant because of his party affiliation. For years, major gun legislation has been held up by Republicans in Congress. President Donald Trump, a Republican, routinely floats modest gun control measures after major mass shootings, but he’s never followed through.

Related story: Memo reveals a House Republican strategy on shootings: downplay white nationalism, blame left

Cretekos, a devout member of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Clearwater, said leaders in Washington need to address the ongoing crisis.

Before the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Republican state lawmakers were adamantly anti-gun control. But in the wake of that attack, which killed 17 people, Tallahassee leaders pushed through modest gun measures, including a red flag law. That legislation allowed law enforcement to seek an injunction to confiscate weapons from a person deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.

Related story: Rick Scott is set to sign the Legislature’s gun bill. Here’s what’s in it.

That same year, the Legislature voted against a proposed assault weapons ban, however. Although the term “assault weapon” is often poorly defined, quick-firing semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazines factored in the massacres last month that left 31 dead in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas in just one weekend.

Cretekos said the nation should revisit the federal assault weapons ban that was on the books from 1994 until 2004. That law banned certain weapon modifications, and its magazine capacity limit of 10 rounds would likely have rendered illegal the ammunition clips used by the El Paso and Dayton shooters.

However, critics of the 1994 law say it was easily skirted. For example, the law did not outlaw any guns manufactured before its implementation.

Cretekos needs two more council members to move the measure forward to a vote at Thursday’s meeting. On Monday, only Jay Polglaze said he supports it.

As mayor, Cretekos presides over city meetings, but he is just one of five votes on the council under Clearwater’s city manager system. His colleagues include two other registered Republicans, Dave Allbritton and Hoyt Hamilton; the party-unaffiliated Bob Cundiff and a Democrat, Polglaze.

Hamilton and Allbritton each said that although they support the resolution’s more modest proposals, they wouldn’t back a call for an assault weapons ban.

“When you outlaw guns, only outlaws are going to have guns,” Hamilton said.

Allbritton pointed to a Wikipedia summary of a 2013 study that showed that mass shootings, defined as incidents that leave at least four dead, involve semi-automatic rifles only a quarter of the time. In an interview, Allbritton also cited a PolitiFact story that showed how officials have taken advantage of Florida’s “red flag” law thousands of times since its inception.

Related story: How Florida’s red flag gun law works

Although Cundiff stayed mum during Monday’s discussion, he said in an interview that he would not support the resolution because to him it goes “way beyond the Constitutional limit.”

For Cretekos’ part, he said he offered his proposal with no idea how it would fare.

“I appeal to your conscience,” Cretekos said. “What are we going to say to our residents if something like an Odessa, or an El Paso or a Dayton happens in Clearwater?”

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. This rendering shows Scientology's proposed L. Ron Hubbard Hall, a 3,600-seat auditorium with an all-glass facade at the corner of Garden Avenue and Court Street in downtown Clearwater. [Courtesy City of Clearwater]
    Plans for L. Ron Hubbard Hall go back 26 years. If constructed, it would have more seats than Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall.
  2. Four board members at Horizon House co-op had their locks targeted by a vandal Thanksgiving week. Clearwater police are currently investigating the incident. Edward Schmoll
    Four members of the Horizon House HOA board had their front-door locks vandalized during the Thanksgiving holiday.
  3. Jamie Harden of Creative Sign Designs and Maryann Ferenc of Mise en Place discuss priorities for the Tampa Bay Chamber for the coming year. Harden is the outgoing chairman of the chamber. Ferenc is the incoming chairwoman. RICHARD DANIELSON | Times
    Leadership of the organization, formerly the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, also says it could have handled its recent name change better.
  4. File handout images of Clearwater Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunbar, left, and City Manager Bill Horne, right. City of Clearwater, City of Clearwater
    “I look back favorably on the many positive strides”
  5. Clearwater Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunbar, left, and City Manager Bill Horne, right. City of Clearwater, City of Clearwater
    The move came after three investigations into the department in a little more than a year.
  6. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    The driver was taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg as a trauma alert.
  7. A bird's-eye view of USF St. Petersburg, which this week announced a new member of the Campus Board. She is Melissa Seixas, a Duke Energy executive who earned her master's degree at USF.
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  8. Immertec, which uses virtual reality to train doctors and other medical professionals, was founded by Erik Maltais pictured here, and is an example of the kind of tech startup that earned the Tampa Bay area a top-20 ranking on a list of the nation's best "tech towns" by the Computing Technology Industry Association. (Times file photo) OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES  |  Times
    The bay area’s 150 startups put it onto the Computing Technology Industry Association list for the first time.
  9. The intersection at Seminole Boulevard and East and West Bay Drive forbids drivers from turning right, even on a green light. FDOT
    The intersection at Seminole Boulevard and the East/West Bay Drive is the only one in the district where drivers are restricted on green-light turns.
  10. Tech Data said Monday it has completed its acquisition of the Washington, D.C.-based company DLT Solutions. Meanwhile, Tech Data's own acquisition by Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm headquartered in New York, heads for a key deadline next week. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Tech Data continues to grow, even as it is about to be acquired itself.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement