Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) criticized an audience member at a news conference Thursday who linked his policies to a recent mass shooting at a dollar store in Jacksonville that left three Black people dead.
DeSantis, who is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, spoke in Jacksonville about his stand against stricter public health measures amid rising COVID-19 cases. As he opened the floor to questions, a man who was not named but identified himself as a black veteran said he believed the governor had supported policies that gave “immature people” access to firearms. These weapons, the man said, “caused the deaths of the people who were murdered a few weeks ago.”
“I will not allow you to accuse me of criminal activity,” the governor said. “I won’t accept that.”
The questioner then said that DeSantis “allowed people to hunt people like me.”
“Oh, that’s nonsense,” DeSantis replied. “This is such nonsense.”
The man was escorted from the room, NBC News reported reported.
A white gunman with a rifle painted with swastikas opened fire at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville on August 26. The gunman had previously parked at a historically black university but sped away when 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 shooting victims last month. Democrats have also criticized the governor’s efforts to target so-called “woke” culture, ban teaching about the pervasive effects of racism in America and end diversity programs in schools.
DeSantis dismissed such criticism Thursday in light of the man’s comments at the news conference.
“We have done more to support law enforcement in this state than anyone else in the United States,” the governor said. “The idea that we are not committed to security is absurd.”