As Ron DeSantis hits the campaign trail in earnest, he’s also hitting former president Donald Trump over his past support for “red flag” laws. In an interview with Dana Loesch on Thursday, DeSantis was asked about Trump’s seeming endorsement of “red flag” language in the wake of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, and the Florida governor had some harsh words for the 2024 frontrunner.
After months of largely avoiding criticizing former President Donald Trump directly, Gov. Ron DeSantis unloaded Thursday during a media blitz following his entry in the presidential race, slamming Trump’s COVID-19 response and criticizing his statements on guns and abortion.
The comments were some of DeSantis’ most pointed when it comes to Trump and highlight his strategy of trying to run to the right of Trump and portray himself as more conservative.
“It seems like he’s running to the left and I have always been somebody that’s just been moored in conservative principles,” DeSantis told radio host Matt Murphy. “So these will be interesting debates to have, but I can tell you, you don’t win nationally by moving to the left, you win nationally by standing for bold policy. We showed that in Florida. I never watered down anything I did.”
… DeSantis also was interviewed by former National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch in which she asked him about “the idea of taking the guns first and going through due process second.”
Trump said in 2018 during a meeting with lawmakers in response the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that authorities should “take the guns first, go through due process second.”
“That’s unconstitutional,” DeSantis told Loesch. “It violates the Second Amendment, but I think even more important it violates the Fifth Amendment because they can’t take anything from you without due process. It’s not just firearms.”
Which begs the question; does DeSantis support Florida’s “red flag” law that was imposed after the Parkland shootings? The governor has already gone on the record backing repeal of the state’s ban on gun sales to adults younger than 21 that was put in place at the same time period, but has said little about the “red flag” statute since taking office though he said when he was running for governor in 2018 that he would have vetoed the legislation if he’d had the opportunity.
I like DeSantis, but I also find it a tiny bit disingenuous for him to claim that he never “watered down” anything he did when many Second Amendment advocates were frustrated by the fact that the permitless carry bill he signed into law this year did not contain an open carry provision. It’s true that DeSantis said he himself was on board with including open carry in the legislation, but he didn’t apply much public pressure to lawmakers to add the provision to the bill that he ultimately signed into law… much to the chagrin of some gun owners.
“The governor is weak if he cannot even get his own super majority legislature to add part of his agenda, which is open carry, to the permitless carry bill,” said Matt Collins, a gun rights supporter and former lobbyist for gun-rights groups. “It’s embarrassing for him. It’s failed leadership and it hurts his chances in the upcoming presidential primary.”
Ehhh, we’ll see whether or not that’s the case. Both DeSantis and Trump have a spot or two on their Second Amendment records, but I’d say Trump’s support for the ATF’s administrative ban on bump stocks is likely to weigh more heavily on the minds of gun owners than DeSantis signing a permitless carry bill that left out open carry. And when it comes to the general election there’s no question that either candidate would be better than Joe Biden and his anti-gun ideology and rabid support for bans on commonly-owned firearms.
I’m curious to see if DeSantis starts bringing up Trump’s initial support for “red flag” laws on his own and not just in response to questions from the media. That line of attack is definitely a way to separate himself from the former president, but it also makes Florida’s own “red flag” law a legitimate issue. It’s hard to criticize Trump for his comments without calling into question the Republicans in the Florida legislature (as well as then-governor Rick Scott) for actually enacting an Extreme Risk Protection Order law. I suspect that on the stump DeSantis will choose to focus far more on the pro-2A laws he’s put in place than the gun control laws that remain on the books in the Sunshine State, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong if DeSantis decides to make “red flag” laws a campaign issue.