The governor was on the campaign trail this week, visiting Algona, Iowa on Saturday.
Two men and one woman were killed on Saturday afternoon in what police described as a racially-motivated attack against Black people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville by a white gunman carrying a weapon decorated with swastikas.
Mr DeSantis condemned the attack “in the strongest possible terms” and called the suspect a “scumbag” as he spoke to reporters in Iowa.
“We’ve offered support for Sheriff Waters and the city of Jacksonville. And we send our condolences to the victims and their families, who were the victims of a very cowardly act,” he said. “He was targeting people based on their race. That is totally unacceptable.”
CNN reported on Saturday that the DeSantis campaign had been asked whether the Republican governor would divert his travel to go to Jacksonville to pay respects to the victims and meet with the families. A spokesperson told the network only that the campaign “would let them know”.
The Independent contacted the DeSantis campaign for comment on his travel plans on Sunday.
Democrats and liberal commentators quickly highlighted some of the governor’s far-right policies in the wake of the shooting including how he has decided Black history should be taught in Florida schools and lax gun control policies.
“Hate begets hate. The racist rhetoric that DeSantis has espoused throughout Florida thru policies and practice has led to this tragic moment,” wrote LaTosha Brown, founder of Black Voters Matter.
“DeSantis has been pouring the fuel of racism & hatred throughout his state to outperform Trump in becoming the next racist Hater-In-Chief.”
Representative Maxwell Frost, a Democrat who represents Florida, called on the governor to summon the state legislature for a special session to address gun violence and hate crimes.
“The governor needs to do something about it, we need to call the special session and come together. And it’s gonna get worse,” Congressman Frost said. “We said this about ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and all this legislation. It’s not just a culture war...It’s a real war. It’s a real war on Black and Brown lives and people of color.”
"It's not just a culture war. It's a real war. It's a real war on Black and Brown lives" @MaxwellFrostFL on the Jacksonville shooting as the FBI investigates it as a hate crime "I hope that the DOJ will launch an investigation into what's going on in [Florida]" #KatiePhangShow pic.twitter.com/U1gua2Evs6
— The Katie Phang Show (@katiephangshow) August 27, 2023
Others highlighted a bill allowing Floridians to carry a concealed weapon without a permit signed into law by Mr DeSantis in April.
“Hey, Ron DeSantis: We aren’t forgetting about the permitless carry bill you signed. Nor are we forgetting about the white nationalism & fascism you’ve bred with your attacks on Black history & the LGBTQ+ community. You have blood on your hands. We are going to make you find out,” wrote Democratic activist Victor Shi.
The shooting in Jacksonville is the latest racially-motivated attack on Black victims in recent years. In May of 2022, 10 people died in an attack on a grocery store in a majority-Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York. In 2015, a gunman killed nine people at a Black church in South Carolina.
DeSantis is polling in second place in the 2024 GOP field but remains far behind the front runner Donald Trump, and is fighting off challenges from surging rivals including Vivek Ramaswamy.