Florida candidates flock to Jacksonville ahead of highly anticipated primary

Chris McFarland rubbed the bare patch of skin outlining stitches just above his left ear – moments before doctors discharged him from the Trauma Center at Memorial Hospital.

The 31-year-old gamer saw his life flash before his eyes Sunday after a bullet grazed his head during the mass shooting at the “Madden NFL 19” video game tournament. “What [would’ve] happened if I was in a different position, [or] if he had decided to shoot a couple of more bullets?” McFarland asked.

Chris McFarland shows where the bullet grazed his head Sunday afternoon.

Chris McFarland shows where the bullet grazed his head Sunday afternoon. (Fox News)

Meantime, across the state, the shooting has reinvigorated the gun debate, ahead of one of the most anticipated primaries this year. Candidates from both sides of the aisle re-routed their campaigns to make a stop in Jacksonville and address Sunday’s shooting.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said the shooter, David Katz, 24, carried two legally purchased firearms into the Chicago Pizza restaurant Sunday afternoon and used one of the guns to kill two people and wound several others before turning the gun on himself.

Gwen Graham, a former congresswoman currently seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, said at a roundtable discussion Monday, “I have been talking about gun safety every single day.”

Just about every candidate for Senate and governor echoed Graham’s frustration – but they offered different solutions.

Current Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, is switching gears, taking aim at Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson’s seat.

“How much more is Florida going to have to take?” Nelson asked a swarm of reporters across from the Jacksonville Landing on Monday.

Scott had arrived in Jacksonville the night before.

“What causes a person to say, indiscriminately, ‘I’m going to go shoot somebody?’” Scott asked.

He said “something’s changed” in the way young men value life; he believes understanding that factor will be the key to putting a halt to these heinous shootings.

Also rushing to the city when news of the shooting broke: gubernatorial candidate Chris King, a Democrat who said he “needed to get here as quickly as possible.”

Flanked by gun-control signs and grieving parents who lost their children to gun violence, King told Fox News, “For me, to have a tragedy like this take place in Jacksonville around an issue that I feel so passionately about, it was important to get here.”

Fox News also spoke to Philip Levine, a former Miami Beach mayor and another Democratic gubernatorial candidate, while he toured a local college.

“Every day these tragedies happen, it’s more of a greater wake-up call that we need to move forward, and that means people need to vote,” Levine said. “And if I’m honored to be governor, I will make sure we will change these laws.”

Levine and many of his Democratic opponents called for stricter background checks, a ban on assault rifles and preventing people with mental health issues from obtaining guns.

Other Democratic candidates for governor aired their grievances on Twitter.

Entrepreneur Jeff Greene tweeted, in part, “It’s time to stand up to the NRA.”

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum wrote, “We simply cannot let this become the new normal.”

Republican candidates focused on offering prayers and support for the victims’ families and first responders.

Trump-endorsed U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis tweeted his “thanks to the first responders from @JSOPIO for heading into a terrible situation.”

Adam Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, canceled his rally in Jacksonville in response to the shooting and offered prayers online.

Scott’s GOP opponent, Roque De La Fuente, did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

The attack Sunday followed a string of mass shootings in Florida in recent years – including the Parkland high school massacre that left 17 dead in February, the five people gunned down at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport last year, and the Pulse nightclub shooting which killed 49 in 2016.

Now, Floridians get the chance to make their voices heard at the voting booths, which close at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday.