When a Black veteran began peppering Ron DeSantis with questions about recent gun policies in connection with the Jacksonville shooting, the Florida governor defended himself and talked over him before the veteran was eventually removed from the news conference altogether.
“I feel that you have enacted policies that hurt people like myself,” the veteran said, before mentioning the racist shooting at a Dollar General store last month, in which 21-year-old Ryan Palmeter shot and killed three Black customers before turning the gun on himself.
“You have allowed weapons to be put on the street into immature hateful people that have caused the deaths of the people who were murdered a couple weeks ago,” the veteran continued. “Trayvon Martin was not the first…” he said before Mr DeSantis interjected.
“So first of all,” the 2024 presidential candidate began, “I did not allow anything with that.”
“Please let me finish, sir,” the veteran said, but Mr DeSantis did not let him finish, and instead raised his voice: “I’m not gonna let you accuse me of committing criminal activity. I am not going to take that! I’m not going to take that!”
The Florida Republican continued: “You want to have a civil conversation, that’s one thing ...t ry to say that I’m letting ... that guy was Baker Acted. He should have been ruled ineligible, but they didn’t involuntarily commit him.”
The veteran again pleaded for the governor to let him talk, but Mr DeSantis said, “You don’t get to come here and blame me for some madman. That is not appropriate, and I’m not going to accept it.”
“You have allowed people to hunt people like me,” the man said as the crowd groaned.
“Oh, that is nonsense. That is such nonsense. We’ve done more, we’ve done more to support law enforcement in this state than anybody in throughout the United States,” Mr DeSantis retorted.
The veteran then appeared to be escorted out of the venue.
In the wake of the shooting, Sheriff Waters said that the gunman “hated Black people.” The FBI also launched a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting and is pursuing “this incident as a hate crime,” said Sherri Onks, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville office.
Palmeter was legally able to buy the weapons used in the attack, despite once having been taken into the state’s care after suffering a mental health episode under the Baker Act, to which Mr DeSantis alluded. The shooter was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and a Glock handgun.
Mr DeSantis remarked on the shooting at the time, calling Palmeter a “scumbag” and labeling the attack as “racially motivated.” However, his response was not well received; at the victims’ vigil, a crowd of over a hundred people booed Mr DeSantis.
A number of politicians and gun control advocates called out recent policies that the Florida governor has passed during his tenure.
Shannon Watts, founder of gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, underscored recent gun legislation that went into effect in the state: “Florida’s lax gun laws – like permitless carry – make it easy for criminals and white supremacists to access guns.”
New Jersey Democrat Rep Bill Pascrell echoed the need for tighter gun laws. “Last year 99% of House republicans voted no to banning war weapons like the one used yesterday in Jacksonville by a racist terrorist,” he wrote at the time.