Vero Beach Mayor Val Zudans steered the city into the cross hairs of the national gun debate after penning a letter aimed at San Francisco leaders, lambasting their recent decision to label the National Rifle Association a terror organization.
Zudans on Sept. 6 inked a two-page letter to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in his official capacity as mayor, ripping the unanimous Sept. 3 resolution by the board – their equivalent of a city council – declaring the NRA a “domestic terrorist organization.”
The correspondence, which was not publicly discussed or voted on by the Vero Beach City Council and lacked signatures from fellow council members, slammed San Francisco as a “sanctuary for criminals, addicts and homeless encampments.
“Your stifling big brother government is your downfall,” Zudans wrote. “Your most recent action stinks like the steaming excrement on your streets.”
Zudans, who identified himself as “a lifetime NRA member, concealed carry permit holder, and Mayor of Vero Beach, Florida,” went on to claim the California city’s declaration amounted to calling “millions of law-abiding NRA members ‘terrorists.’”
“Governments who coerce and intimidate their citizens are the true terrorists,” Zudans also wrote. “You are the true enemy of liberty by enabling addiction, homelessness and harboring illegal violent criminals. Instead of calling Americans terrorists, look in the mirror and get your own house in order first.”
The San Francisco resolution calls for the city and county to “take every reasonable step to limit” San Francisco’s “financial and contractual relationships” with vendors who do business with the NRA. The rebuke of the gun-rights organization was introduced in July after a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California where three people were slain. It also came after mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, that killed dozens of people.
Some of Zudans’ fellow council members believe he should have discussed the letter publicly with them before sending it out on city stationery.
“I wouldn’t do it before speaking with my other council members,” said Councilman Robert Brackett, who hasn’t read the letter.
“Whether I agree with it or not, I probably wouldn’t have written the letter because we have local things to deal with,” Councilman Harry Howle said.
Vice Mayor Tony Young echoed Howle’s sentiment.
“Vero Beach probably is a collection of different viewpoints. Typically we’re very conservative, but again, it’s presumptive to have sent that out – and I’ll just leave it at that,” Young said. “I know people are upset about that letter. It was a surprise to me.”
Councilwoman Laura Moss said she would not have sent the partisan letter.
“The kind of issues we’re involved in locally or on the state level are not partisan. Look what it’s done to us. It’s divided us,” Moss said. “I don’t take a position of judging him, because it is a free speech issue.”
For Zudans’ part, he’s standing by his hostile words to the west coast city, saying the letter represents his own opinion.
“When San Francisco government officially labeled the NRA a terrorist organization, they were labeling the mayor of Vero Beach and mayors of many other communities across America terrorists,” Zudans said. “If they had labeled us privately, a private response would be appropriate. But they did it in an official government capacity and this was the appropriate response in that scenario.”