Ron DeSantis is nervous as he faces gun deaths in Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis went into a tizzy Sunday when he was confronted by a reporter about the rising number of gun deaths in the Sunshine State under his administration.

During an interview on NBC News Meet the press On Sunday, DeSantis, a Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential primary, raved about Florida’s low crime rates as host Kristen Welker brought up the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) firearm death statistics.

“In Florida, our crime rate is at a 50-year low and our violent crime rate is down 30 percent since I’ve been governor, so we’re addressing it aggressively,” DeSantis said.

Welker then chimed in: “Governor, statistically, the CDC says the firearm death rate is actually higher under your administration than under your predecessor’s administration, but I want to move on to the campaign…”

Ron Desantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Venetian Resort Las Vegas on Saturday. DeSantis went into a tizzy Sunday when he was confronted by a reporter about the rising number of gun deaths in the Sunshine State under his administration.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

DeSantis and Welker began talking to each other as the governor searched for the right words.

He replied, “Well, because you had COVID and all that stuff. Excess mortality, is that what you mean? It has increased everywhere in the country from 2020.”

Welker then clarified, saying, “The death rate from firearms.”

Newsweek DeSantis’ campaign asked for comment via an online form.

According to CDC statistics, Florida’s firearm death rate was 12.9 in 2018, former Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s final year in office. In 2019, the year DeSantis took office, the firearm death rate fell slightly to 12.7. However, the firearm death rate jumped to 13.7 in 2020 and then rose again to 14.1 in 2021.

Before DeSantis chatted with Welker about gun deaths in Florida, the two discussed Wednesday night’s mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine. At least 18 people were killed and over a dozen others injured after a gunman opened fire at a restaurant and bowling alley.

Robert Card, a 40-year-old trained firearms instructor, was identified as a suspect and was found dead Friday evening at a Lisbon Falls recycling plant where he recently worked. He apparently suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Officials said Card had suffered from mental illness in the past, but there was no evidence he was ever involuntarily committed. Michael Sauschuck, Maine state public safety commissioner, said in a press conference: “Just because there appears to be a connection to mental health in this scenario, the vast majority of people with a mental health diagnosis will not harm anyone.”

There have been 565 mass shootings in the United States so far in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as when there are four or more victims. The Gun Violence Archive found that the mass shooting in Lewiston was the deadliest mass shooting of the year.

As gun violence becomes more common in the United States, gun control advocates argue that stricter gun laws would lead to fewer mass shootings, while gun rights advocates believe that restricting gun ownership violates the Second Amendment.

Now move on Meet the pressDeSantis maintained his position that the mass shooting could have been prevented if Card’s involuntary actions had been committed.

Welker mentioned how officials in Maine said a red flag law could have made a difference in this scenario. Red flag laws allow state courts to temporarily confiscate guns from people they believe may pose a danger to themselves or others.

“It would have empowered authorities to show the red light to gun sellers across the state and say, ‘This is someone who shouldn’t own a gun.’ “That last line of defense was never used because it didn’t exist, Governor,” Welker said.

DeSantis said background checks, already required statewide, should have been sufficient in this situation if an “involuntary commitment” had been included in the system.

“The question is what you put into the system. If someone has a compulsory admission due to mental illness, this can simply be incorporated into the existing system. You don’t need any extra things,” he said.