Gubernatorial Candidate Philip Levine Says Gun Control Is His Top Priority

By on March 28, 2018 in News Service of Florida

Florida – Putting gun control at the top of his to-do list, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine said Tuesday he’ll push a ban on “assault” weapons — including a ballot referendum, if necessary — if elected in November.

Levine’s appearance at the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee brought him onto the home turf of two of his primary opponents: former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King is also vying for the Democratic nomination in the race to succeed Gov. Rick Scott.

From the podium Tuesday, Levine rattled off a list of accomplishments he said he achieved during eight years as mayor of Miami Beach, including addressing climate change, cleaning up the city’s police department, and passing the state’s only minimum-wage ordinance. An appeals court in November upheld a judge’s earlier decision striking down the local minimum wage.

But when asked about his priorities if elected governor, Levine, who said he owns a gun and has a concealed weapons license, named a ban on assault weapons as his number-one issue.

And if the Republican-controlled Legislature won’t make assault rifles off-limits, Levine said he would back an initiative to put a prohibition on the 2020 ballot.

“I’m going to make sure that we have a referendum. That referendum is going to say, number one, do you want to ban assault rifles in Florida? And, number two, if we can’t get Tallahassee to do what we need them to do, would you like the local governments in Florida to have the right and ability to regulate their own gun safety policy? I believe Floridians will say absolutely yes,” Levine, 56, said.

Levine and Gillum want to do away with a 2011 “pre-emption” law that prohibits local governments from passing gun-related ordinances. The law also required cities and counties to eliminate gun-related restrictions already on the books and included hefty fines for local officials who failed to comply.

“We need to give (control over gun regulations) back to the local communities,” Levine said.

Less than two weeks after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 14 students and three staff members dead, Levine helped lead a rally outside the Capitol where hundreds of protesters — including many from the Parkland school — demanded that the Legislature pass stricter gun regulations.

The former mayor also delivered thousands of petitions to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican running for governor, whose office oversees concealed-weapons licenses.

In an interview with The News Service of Florida following Tuesday’s appearance at the political club, Levine predicted gun control would play a critical role in this year’s elections.

“I think it’s a pivotal issue,” he said. “We’ve had the greatest generation, who won World War II. I believe we have a new greatest generation, with these young folks in high school, that want safe schools so they can learn. I believe it’s going to be a crucial issue going forward. It’s the right thing to do, for us to get this done, and I’m committed to it. And if we can’t get the Legislature, to do it, I’m going to bring it to the people of Florida, and I’m going to ask them to do it in a referendum.”

Levine, who made his fortune in the cruise industry, has dumped nearly $2 million of his own money into his campaign for governor since entering the race in November.

While he hails from the Democratic stronghold of South Florida, Levine said he’s committed to a “67-county strategy” in the primary battle.

“There’s nowhere we won’t go. There’s no one I won’t talk to. I don’t care if a county has five registered Democrats. I’ll show up,” Levine, clad in a navy blazer, dark blue jeans, and tasseled loafers, said.

Breaking into Spanish briefly, Levine noted that he speaks the language fluently, a trait considered an asset in a state where Hispanics could play a pivotal role in both the primary and general elections this year.

“I know it’s a big state, but the one thing I know is that everywhere I go, everybody wants the same things. They want clean water. They want better education and safe schools. They want better public transportation. They want nondiscrimination policies. And, my God, they want better jobs, higher paying jobs,” he said.

The 2018 governor’s election will be “the most important election” not only for Florida, but for the nation and the world as well, “because so goes Florida this year, so goes the presidency in 2020,” Levine said.

Florida “has been the butt of many jokes for many years,” Levine said.

“We may have led the country, possibly, in the wrong direction. But I believe this year will be our opportunity to set the record straight, to show the country and the world that we’re going to do the right thing,” he added.

Levine called himself a “pro-business” and “pro-people” pragmatist who is a Democrat but is also “an American” first.

“I don’t believe that anyone has a monopoly on good ideas, not Republicans, not Democrats and not independents,” he said, concluding with what will certainly be a common campaign refrain over the next few months. “I’m not right and I’m not left. I am forward.”

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