Bloomberg coalition silent on Pedro Vargas’ Florida shooting rampage

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns failed to release a statement in the hours after a Florida shooting rampage left seven people dead.

Bloomberg’s coalition, which has been besieged by problems of late but nevertheless continues its nationwide 100-day bus tour for gun control, offered no response to Saturday’s shooting in suburban Miami, in which 43-year old Pedro Vargas set fire to his apartment and then fatally shot six people in and around the building. Police are looking into the possibility that Vargas had a dispute with his building managers. Vargas had no previous criminal history.

Vargas, who was living with his mother in Apartment 408 of an apartment complex in Haileah, Florida, set his apartment on fire then shot two building managers racing toward the fire. Vargas then began shooting off a balcony into the street below, hitting and killing a 33-year old father getting out of his car at the apartment complex across the street. Vargas then kicked down the door of another apartment in his building and killed three more people before a standoff with police, during which Vargas eluded police by running around his apartment building firing random shots. His decision to barge into a random apartment and take two hostages bought him some time, but after his negotiations with SWAT team negotiators “fell apart,” police stormed the apartment and killed him.

Bloomberg’s coalition was similarly silent in the aftermath of a June 7 shooting spree by John Zawahri in Santa Monica, California that left five people dead.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a tax-exempt nonprofit group, currently faces criticism for employing public New York City Hall workers to manage its website, and for hosting its site on official city government servers. Bloomberg’s coalition also sent a special counsel for Bloomberg’s mayoral office to Nevada to register as a gun-control lobbyist.

“As the original mission swayed, that’s when I decided that it was no longer in line with my beliefs… So that’s why I dropped out. The focus should not be against law-abiding citizens. We should be focusing our enforcement on folks who have no right to carry a gun, concealed or otherwise,” said independent Rockford, Illinois mayor Larry Morrissey when he dropped out of the group in June, joining a growing list of mayors dropping out of the organization for similar reasons.

Bloomberg, a billionaire Barack Obama supporter, personally donated the vast majority of the money raised by the coalition, according to an August 2012 disclosure made in compliance with Van Hollen v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled that “social welfare organizations” must disclose their donors if they run ads mentioning specific candidates.

Bloomberg made 68 small contributions to his own group totaling approximately $3.1 million between January 2011 and July 2012. Los Angeles-based billionaire and major Democratic donor Eli Broad also donated $250,000 on August 15, 2011. Only five other individuals had contributed to the coalition by the time of the organization’s last disclosure in 2012, with their combined donations totaling less than $11,000.

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