The campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis—a strident supporter of loosening gun regulations—tried to ban firearms at an election night event in Tampa last year and blame the city for the policy, The Washington Post said in a report published Friday that had critics on both sides of the political aisle calling the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential candidate a hypocrite.
According to the Post, DeSantis’ campaign sought to prohibit guns from the governor’s reelection victory party at the Tampa Convention Center, a city-run venue, last November 8, while suggesting city officials claim responsibility for the ban.
The Post obtained an October 8 email from Chase Finch, the convention center’s safety and security manager, saying that “DeSantis/his campaign will not tell their attendees they are not permitted to carry because of the political optics.”
Finch explained that the request for the city to shoulder blame was due to “Republicans largely being in support of 2A,” a reference to the Second Amendment.”
“Basically it sounds like they want us to say it’s our policy to disallow firearms within the event space if anyone asks,” he added, drawing a response from city administrator Nicole Travis stressing that “we are not saying anything about concealed carry.”
“That is the responsibility of the renter,” Travis said. “We follow state statute that permits concealed carry.”
Responding to the Post report, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, tweeted that “the level of hypocrisy here is just astounding.”
Fred Guttenberg—an activist whose daughter Jaime Guttenberg was one of 17 students and staff shot dead during the February 14, 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—said DeSantis “is a fraud and he should be treated that way.”
“The tough guy act covers for a small, weak, and weird man,” he tweeted. “His decision to be OK with others being at risk of gun violence but not him and to try and cover that up? WEAK!”
Shannon Watts, founder of the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, wrote on Twitter that “the hypocrisy of ‘the dangers of unregulated guns for thee but not for me’ is next-level.”
“DeSantis caters to an extremist, MAGA Republican base by pushing permitless carry while having the privilege to keep those same armed extremists at a distance,” she added. “DeSantis is reportedly forcing attendees at his events to go through metal detectors and he’s also refusing to attend events unless guns are banned. Yet he’s simultaneously pushing for permitless carry to strip gun safety requirements. Safety for him, violence for everyone else.”
Under a Republican-authored bill backed by DeSantis, Florida would become the 26th state to allow people to carry concealed loaded guns without permits. There are currently around 2.6 million concealed carry permits in the state, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
The election night party wasn’t the only time DeSantis’ campaign has tried to keep guns out of events attended by the governor.
Alachua County GOP Chair Tim Marden told the Post that he skipped a DeSantis fundraiser last October because the governor was insisting upon having metal detectors at the event—outside of which a gun rights protester was arrested.
“In my thinking, it was a little hypocritical to have this measure in place for law-abiding citizens at a time when a lot of folks in the gun community will condemn a Democratic politician for having a security force,” Marden said.
Luis Valdes, Florida state director of Gun Owners of America, told the Post that “DeSantis continually pays lip service to the Second Amendment as he positions himself for a nationwide run, and yet what I am seeing as a constituent of his and as a Floridian is that his events are gun-free zones.”
“His primary rivals will clean his clock on guns,” he added.
At the polar opposite of the gun control issue, Florida Moms Demand Action volunteer Wendy Malloy told the Tampa Bay Times that “this proves what we already knew—when it comes to gun violence, Gov. DeSantis puts ‘political optics’ before public safety.”
“Our lawmakers should stand up to Gov. DeSantis’ hypocrisy and reject permitless carry,” she added.