Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) lashed out Thursday at an audience member at a news conference who linked his policies to a recent mass shooting at a dollar store in Jacksonville where three Black people were killed.
DeSantis, who is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, was speaking in Jacksonville about his stand against stronger public health measures as COVID-19 cases rise. When he opened up the floor to questions, a man who has not been named but who identified himself as a Black veteran said he believed the governor had supported policies that allowed “immature people” to access firearms. Those weapons, the man said, “caused the deaths of the people who were murdered a couple weeks ago.”
“I’m not going to let you accuse me of committing criminal activity,” the governor said. “I am not going to take that.”
The questioner then said that DeSantis had “allowed people to hunt people like me.”
“Oh, that is nonsense,” DeSantis replied. “That is such nonsense.”
The man was escorted from the room, NBC News reported.
A white gunman who had swastikas painted on his rifle opened fire at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville on Aug. 26. Earlier, the gunman had parked at a historically Black university but sped away as a campus police officer approached his car.
Critics have pointed out that DeSantis’ efforts have made it easier to carry firearms in the state, and the governor was booed at a vigil for the victims of the shooting last month. Democrats have also called out the governor’s efforts to target so-called “woke” culture, ban the teaching of the pervasive effects of racism in America and has ended diversity programs in schools.
DeSantis rejected such criticisms on Thursday amid the comments from the man at the press conference.
“We’ve done more to support law enforcement in this state than anybody throughout the United States,” the governor said. “The notion that we’re not supportive of safety is absurd.”