October 19, 2022
Ron DeSantis, who according to many is Florida’s premier governor. No, scratch that, according to many, he’s the nation’s premier governor. He is loved for his tough-as-nails, no-bovine-excrement attitude in regard to numerous hot-button issues. Issues like illegal immigration, fighting woke corporations, rebuilding the state after a major hurricane, and of course fighting the Biden administration.
But what about the Second Amendment?
Gov. DeSantis has been recently campaigning as being a Second Amendment champion. Earlier this year he said he’d sign Constitutional Carry if it reached his desk and right after Hurricane Ian laid waste to parts of my beloved state.
He said this:
“The other thing we’re concerned about, particularly in those areas that were really hard hit, is we want to make sure we’re maintaining law and order,” Gov. DeSantis said at a news conference in St. Augustine right after Hurricane Ian carved its path of destruction through the state. “You can have people bringing boats into some of these islands and trying to ransack people’s homes. Don’t even think about looting. Don’t even think about taking advantage of people in this vulnerable situation,” he added.
“I can tell you, in the state of Florida, you never know what may be lurking behind somebody’s home. And I would not want to chance that, if I were you, given that we’re a Second Amendment state.”
That sounds awesome, right? And of course, you’d want to thank him by attending a campaign event or two, right?
Well, that’s just what a fellow Florida Second Amendment patriot and member of Florida Carry wanted to do. He wanted to go to the 20th Annual Ronald Reagan Black Tie & Blue Jeans BBQ, hosted by the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee, and see the Governor. It is happening on October 20, 2022.
Turns out that the event this fellow Florida Patriot purchased tickets for was informed by the event organizer that all ticketed attendees are banned from carrying their gun.
Lee Williams, Florida Carry’s Communication Director immediately jumped into action and contacted Ann Stone, the treasurer of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee and the event organizer. She told Mr. Williams that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement gave her a specific list of instructions and that banning guns is one of the requirements. When pressed further on that, she said “all I know is that he will not appear if there are guns there. It’s more his campaign. They’re not organizing the event, but they gave us the rules for having him on board, and that’s the rules they gave us.”
Ms. Stone stated that these instructions were given to her “verbally” and that she’s a concealed carry permit holder. She told Mr. Williams, “I am a gun person, but what I see is that Ron DeSantis is an up-and-comer. He’s important and needs to be protected, so I have no problem going without my gun. We didn’t make the rules, but we have to live with them.”
Remember, Gov. DeSantis called Florida a “Second Amendment state.” Yet it appears that someone in the bureaucracy is making it hard for Florida to be such a state.
Remember, Florida is a state where you can’t legally open carry or carry concealed firearm without a government-issued permission slip. A state where we have mandatory waiting periods and red flag laws. A state where anyone under the age of twenty-one can’t legally purchase a firearm. A state where a Republican supermajority legislature has blocked open carry, campus carry, and constitutional carry multiple times.
Sadly, many attribute part of this to Gov. DeSantis. But it wasn’t DeSantis that signed the Parkland gun control bill into law. That was his predecessor, Rick Scott.
But we now have a situation developing where Gov. DeSantis might not attend any event where the people can carry, and we need to figure out why that’s the case. But no matter what, this looks bad.
Additionally, what calls this into contention is that this possibly violates Florida’s state preemption law, statute 790.33. Why is that? Because statute 790.06(12)(a) specifically lists the gun-free zones in the state. The location where Gov. DeSantis is speaking isn’t one of those listed locations. The event is being held at the Legacy Park Multipurpose Center, which is publicly owned by the city and because of 790.33, public property like that can’t be a gun-free zone.
Additionally, what makes this really a prickly issue for Gov. DeSantis is that he signed SB 1884 into law back in 2021. What was SB 1884? Oh, a little nothing burger that added more teeth to the state preemption law. It made it to where even if unwritten rules are pushed that violate state preemption law, the plaintiff can still have standing to sue. Because prior to that, if there was an unwritten rule, it wasn’t enforceable.
Remember, Ms. Stone said that she was verbally told to make the event a gun-free zone per FDLE, the state law enforcement agency tasked with protecting the governor. That sounds like a violation of 790.33 and 790.06(12)(a) by declaring a location a gun-free zone when it can’t be done.
Let’s look at the public relations fiasco going on here. You have someone from Gov. DeSantis’ campaign or FDLE telling an event organizer that the Governor will pull out if people show up legally exercising their Second Amendment rights.
Again, let this sink in. You possibly have a state law enforcement agency violating state law to make the venue a gun-free zone when it can’t be one. And this is after the Governor has campaigned on being pro-gun.
This doesn’t look good for the Governor.
Do I question if Gov. DeSantis is pro-gun? Yes, I do. In fact, I question every politician.
For the past three years, the Governor was pretty much silent on constitutional carry. He never openly called for its passage when it was actually introduced three years in a row. It was only when the last session was ending that he started to back it by saying he’ll sign it if it reaches his desk. That’s a good thing, and that shows progress from Gov. DeSantis. Never in Florida’s history have we had a governor openly say they’d sign such a bill.
I know Charlie Crist never did openly support constitutional carry and he surely isn’t pro-gun right now. He’s flipped 180 degrees and now backs gun control on a massive scale. If Charlie Crist wins in November, we can bet the farm that’d he won’t sign constitutional carry if it reaches his desk.
We’re facing a tough battle in Florida and part of this battle is in the legislature. They’ve been the ones blocking pro-gun bills from moving forward.
When the Governor called for a special session in back in the end of March, he said he’d make constitutional carry part of it. Well, right before the special session happened in May, he was asked about constitutional carry and the Governor said “in terms of when? You know, I don’t know. The Legislature has got to pass it. I mean, I’ve said for years I would sign. I don’t know if they have the votes now. But I know that this is something that a lot of people are going to be looking at as we go forward into this next election.”
Now, looking at Gov. DeSantis’ record in office. He’s signed some good bills into law. He signed the Church Carry bill into law and again he signed the bill that strengthens preemption. But at the same time, he said he’d constitutional carry back when he was campaigning for office back in 2018, but then he kinda went silent on the issue. He really didn’t start talking about it again until December 2021 after three years of pressure was put on him by Florida’s gun owners. Prior to that, he never openly called for its passage; he never told the legislature to make it a priority. It is only recently that he has brought it back up again.
Could it be because he has his eyes set on 2024 and know he’s facing primary challengers that actually passed pro-gun legislation like constitutional carry? Could it be because he really does support constitutional carry and now, he sees new leadership in the legislature as a step in the right direction? So that’s why he’s publicly saying he’ll sign it?
The one thing for sure is this. He really needs to truly exercise his bully pulpit to push the issue. But right now, you have reports that he might not speak at an event if the public are exercising their Second Amendment rights.
That isn’t a good thing in the court of public opinion and in the area arena of public relations. Again, who in the bureaucracy is pushing that?
As Florida’s State Director for Gun Owners of America, I can tell you directly, that this isn’t the first time he’s done an event that’s been turned into a gun-free zone. Back in September, I attended the Florida Farm Bureau's event in Dover where they endorsed him for his reelection. It was on private property, so they can legally make it a gun-free zone.
I think the Governor is pro-gun. But this issue can be viewed by some as him looking like he’s pro-gun and convincing gun owners that he’s pro-gun just for their vote.
Back when Gov. DeSantis was running in 2018, he had no problem walking into the Tampa Bay Gun Show and be surrounded by folks with guns. Did he know that the Tampa Bay Gun Show is really a gun-free zone? You can’t carry a loaded firearm there and as an attendee, they zip tie your gun and the event organizers for that gun show have this on their website.
They say the following in their FAQs:
“I HAVE A CONCEALED WEAPON PERMIT. AM I ALLOWED TO BRING MY GUN LOADED TO THE SHOW? No. All guns must be unloaded and secured with a plastic tie at our security desk. Safety is our number one priority and can only be maintained if there are NO loaded guns in the show.”
Actions speak louder than words and right now. Between the issues in the legislature and now this. Some are viewing that his actions are just part to get gun owners’ votes. But he isn’t really pushing the issue. He’s just playing it politically safe and making soundbites.
Personally, I don’t think that’s the issue with Gov. DeSantis as a person. I do think that somewhere though in the bureaucracy, someone is playing games, and this just compounds on a number of issues he is facing and makes thing look bad.
The end is this, gun-free zones are misguided and don’t work. They don't stop criminals and bad people from doing bad things.
If you want to know what happens, I’ll be at the event today covering the issue. Look for a follow-up article on FirearmsNews.com.
About the Author
Luis Valdes is the Florida Director of Gun Owners of America.