Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis became visibly upset and raised his voice at a press conference attendee Thursday who attributed loosened gun policies DeSantis has signed to the racially motivated shooting in Jacksonville last month that killed three Black people.
During a Q&A session at the end of a Covid-related press conference in Jacksonville, the audience member accused DeSantis of allowing “weapons to fill the street into [the hands of] immature, hateful people,” referring to the gunman who carried out the targeted attack on August 26, leading DeSantis to tell the audience member, “I’m not going to let you accuse me of committing criminal activity, I’m not going to take that.”
DeSantis, gesturing and raising his voice, said “you don’t get to come here and blame me for some mad man,” adding “that is not appropriate, and I’m not going to accept it.”
When the audience member, who is Black, said DeSantis allowed “people to hunt people like me,” he called the notion “nonsense” and argued that his administration “has done more to support law enforcement in this state than anybody throughout the U.S.” and said “our crime rate in Florida is now at a 50-year low.”
DeSantis also noted the shooter should have been ineligible to purchase a firearm after he was briefly institutionalized in 2017 under the state’s Baker Act, which allows for a 72-hour detention during a mental health crisis.
Florida surgeon general Joe Ladapo, who is Black, defended DeSantis at the end of the press conference. He told the audience he is a “good man” and that the person arguing with him is “totally insane,” adding “it’s terrible that people take advantage of the fact that he’s a different color from the poor victims of that tragedy to try and tie him into it.”
A 21-year-old white gunman shot and killed three people, then himself, in a Dollar General store in Jacksonville after leaving a racist manifesto on his computer that laid out what Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters described as a “disgusting ideology of hate.” DeSantis denounced the shooting and said the gunman, who he called a “scumbag,” was “targeting people based on their race. That is totally unacceptable.”
Florida state Rep. Angie Nixon (D) is among a coalition of Black legislators and leaders who have criticized DeSantis’ anti-diversity initiatives and loosened gun policies in the wake of the shooting, including a law he signed in April that allows concealed carry without a permit. In an interview with MSNBC last month, she accused DeSantis of allowing “an all out attack on the Black community with his anti-woke policies.” DeSantis “has done nothing but fan these types of happenings throughout our state,” she said, adding “at the end of the day, the governor has blood on his hands.”
Police Identify 21-Year-Old Shooter And Victims In Racially Motivated Jacksonville Shooting—Here’s What We Know (Forbes)
U.S. Passes 400 Mass Shootings In 2023–On Pace For Deadliest Year (Forbes)
DeSantis Signs Law Allowing Concealed Guns To Be Carried In Florida Without Permits—Joining 25 Other States (Forbes)