Local GOP mega-donor, former WCI exec forms gun control group

Republican mega-donor Al Hoffman Jr. of North Palm Beach has formed a gun control advocacy group, building on the momentum created last month when he demanded that the GOP pass legislation to restrict access to guns.

The advocacy group’s name is Americans for Gun Safety Now, and its goal is to see Congress pass legislation limiting the sale of assault-style weapons, among other measures.

Hoffman told the Palm Beach Post on Monday that the group “is off and running” with a growing list of supporters appalled by the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. These supporters include other like-minded business leaders who are angry that assault-style weapons can be purchased easily, Hoffman said.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, is alleged to have killed 17 people at Douglas High School after buying an AR-15 from a gun store in Coral Springs. He was 18 when he purchased the weapon last year, officials said.

Hoffman said he plans to march with a group from Parkland who will be attending the student-led March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington D.C. on March 24.

Hoffman, a real estate developer who helped build Parkland, said Americans for Gun Safety Now will push for the elimination of so-called bump stocks, which allow certain firearms to fire as rapidly as machine guns. The group also will seek to raise the national age to purchase a gun to 21 and expand universal background checks.

Americans for Gun Safety Now also wants to to limit high-capacity gun magazines, which can feature 30 rounds. “How many shots do you need to kill a deer?” Hoffman told The Post.

Hoffman is former chief executive of WCI Communities, a major home builder. He’s also a former Republican National Committee finance chair and ambassador to Portugal.

On Feb. 17, three days after the Parkland shooting, Hoffman told the New York Times he would not write any checks to candidates who do not support a ban on military style weapons for civilians.

The ultimatum was announced to several Republican leaders, including Gov. Rick Scott and former governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush.

Since Hoffman issued his pronouncement, he said a number of other business leaders have expressed support for his stance, a development that could begin a wave of defections from longstanding GOP support for unfettered access to guns.

Hoffman said he’s received more than 1,000 emails and tweets supporting his position.

Many of them are from business leaders who also have pledged to support the gun legislation that Americans for Gun Safety Now wants passed, Hoffman said.

“I’m excited,” Hoffman said. “So many people are signing on…I’ve called my old buddies, major donors. I said, ‘We’ve got to get something going.’ And here we are. We started an organization.”

Hoffman said the group’s website should be launched sometime this week.

Hoffman was a leading developer of Parkland and attended the dedication of Douglas High School.

When he goes to Washington D.C. next month for the March for our Lives, Hoffman said he’s bringing along a police officer who found a slain Douglas High School victim in a hallway.

Hoffman said a new Florida law passed last week is a start toward enacting reasonable gun laws, and he said the federal government should do the same. The law imposes a three-day waiting period on the purchase of any firearm, boosts the minimum age to buy a gun in the state to 21 and bans the sale of bump stocks, among other measures.

“We want Congress to pass those same laws right now. And then move on to more comprehensive legislation soon,” he said.

Hoffman expressed distaste for Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a major recipient of money from the National Rifle Association and a favorite lawmaker of the organization, which advocates for gun rights. The NRA filed a federal lawsuit to block the state’s new gun law a few hours after Scott signed it.

“He took $3.3 million” from the NRA, Hoffman said. “Why would he want to change now?”

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