Call to action: Bay Area leaders join in St. Pete to denounce hate, gun violence

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Enough is enough. That was the message Monday during a call to action against gun violence and a vigil for the victims of two mass shootings this weekend.

Mayors Rick Kriseman and Jane Castor, Rep. Charlie Crist, faith leaders, and advocacy groups took the stage at Williams Park in St. Petersburg – each denouncing gun violence and hate, and all agreeing gun regulations are needed to address the problem of mass shootings.

Just below the surface of sadness was anger.

“It’s no longer to pretend there’s no way to prevent mass casualties. We can and must ban weapons of war,” Crist told the crowd.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said the “evil acts” in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas were “made easy thanks in part to America’s lack of common-sense gun laws.”

Tampa’s former chief of police and newly elected mayor, Jane Castor said local jurisdictions should be allowed to make their own rules regarding guns, adding “the majority of Florida residents are for banning assault rifles.”

They urged the crowd of about 200 to demand change, saying people will continue to be killed if lawmakers are not held responsible.

“This is not a Republican issue, not a democratic issue, this is an American issue. We have an epidemic of this in America and it must stop, and leaders in not only Washington but throughout the country have to be held accountable and do what’s right,” Crist said.

The takeaway seemed to be that voters have the power to change things, urging folks to speak with their elected officials and flex their muscles at the ballot box.

“We may need to fight harder, and we may need to speak louder, we may need to vote in bigger numbers, but we can do this,” Kriseman added.

“I want to live in a city, I want to live in a state where everyone is judged by their character rather than the color of their skin, that no one loses their life because of the God that they pray to, and it doesn’t matter who you loved as much as that you loved and that you are loved,” Mayor Castor said.