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Saturday, Sep 22, 2018
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Prominent Republican donor issues an ultimatum

A prominent Republican political donor demanded on Saturday that the party pass legislation to restrict access to guns, and vowed not to contribute to any candidates or electioneering groups that did not support a ban on the sale of military-style firearms to civilians.

Al Hoffman Jr., a Florida-based real estate developer who was a leading fundraiser for George W. Bush’s campaigns, said he would seek to marshal support among other Republican political donors for a renewed assault weapons ban.

"For how many years now have we been doing this — having these experiences of terrorism, mass killings — and how many years has it been that nothing’s been done?" Hoffman said in an interview. "It’s the end of the road for me."

Hoffman announced his ultimatum in an email to half a dozen Republican leaders, including former Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida. He wrote in the email that he would not give money to Scott, who is considering a campaign for the Senate, or other Florida Republicans he has backed in the past, including Rep. Brian Mast, if they did not support new gun legislation.

"I will not write another check unless they all support a ban on assault weapons," he wrote. "Enough is enough!"

Hoffman, a former ambassador to Portugal, has donated millions to Republican candidates and causes over the years, including more than $1 million to Right to Rise, a super PAC that supported Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign in 2016.

A critic of President Donald Trump, Hoffman has continued to donate heavily to other Republicans.

Alluding to past mass killings, Hoffman argued in his email that future gun massacres were inevitable without government intervention: "If we go from Orlando to Las Vegas, and now Parkland, you just have to know that there are others around the country just dreaming about staging another mass murder."

Republican elected officials in Washington and Florida have shown no significant interest in considering new gun restrictions after the Florida school shooting. The party, which has full control of both the state and federal government, has traditionally opposed virtually all new limitations on firearms. Scott has resisted pressure to back new gun regulations after the killing of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County on Wednesday, though he said "everything’s on the table" in a television interview.

And Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida voiced resistance to discussing gun control in a speech after the massacre, arguing in the Senate that a person determined to carry out an attack would find the weaponry to do it regardless of government regulations. His comments provoked outrage among some students who survived the shooting.

A previous federal assault weapons ban, enacted in 1994 under a Democratic president and Congress, lapsed in 2004 while Republicans had full control of Washington.

Hoffman acknowledged it was "not likely" he would succeed in making the party more open to an assault weapons ban, and said Republicans were too beholden to the National Rifle Association. He has urged Republicans in the past to support certain firearms restrictions, without effect, but has not previously issued such a blunt threat.

One of the recipients of Hoffman’s Saturday message, Mel Sembler of St. Petersburg, another former ambassador and ally of the Bush family, suggested he did not intend to join the proposed donation boycott. "I don’t plan on getting into this debate," . Sembler said in a brief email.

Hoffman gave $25,000 last spring to the Senate Leadership Fund, a group backed by Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, that is focused on defending Republicans’ Senate majority.

He said he would close his checkbook to that group and others like it, and would encourage others to do the same in the absence of action on guns.

"I’m going to email every single donor I know in the Republican Party and try to get them on board," he said. "We’ve really got to start a little movement here."

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