Lakeland Mass Shooting Shines Spotlight on Ron DeSantis' Gun Views

Florida's state legislature introduced a bill Monday that would allow citizens to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, the same day 10 people were injured in a drive-by shooting in Lakeland, Florida.

The proposed gun permit bill, outlined by Florida House Speaker and Republican Paul Renner and endorsed by the Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA), is also referred to as a "constitutional carry" bill by its supporters, and has been a long-promised initiative by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, according to a report from the Tallahassee Democrat.

If the bill is passed by the GOP-controlled legislature, Florida would become the 26th state to allow permit-less concealed carrying.

The bill was introduced just hours before four people opened fire and injured 10 in a drive-by shooting in Lakeland, Florida, according to the Lakeland Police Department. Police Chief Sammy Taylor told reporters in a press briefing Monday night that all of the victims were males age 20 to 35, two of whom receiving treatment in the hospital for critical injuries.

Mass Shooting Renews Criticism for DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 19, 2022. In the inset, a sign is held by a gun-control advocate at the March for Our Lives rally in Parkland, Florida, on June 11, 2022. DeSantis on Monday was grilled for his support of carrying without a permit after a mass shooting in Lakeland, Florida, left 10 injured. Wade Vandervort/AFP via Getty; Joe Raedle/Getty

Democrats and advocates reignited calls for increased gun control Monday night in light of the mass shooting, pointing fingers at DeSantis for wanting to expand gun rights.

"A mass shooting in Lakeland, Florida has left 10 people injured," wrote New York Representative Ritchie Torres on Twitter. "Yet Ron DeSantis wants people to freely carry firearms without a permit, which will cause even more guns to fall into the hands of even more mass shooters."

David Hogg, founder of the youth-led movement March for Our Lives, also tweeted about the shooting in Lakeland, writing, "Maybe let's not weaken gun laws by passing permitless carry in Florida. Just a thought."

Journalist Brian Krassenstein noted in his tweet Monday night that Florida's gun permit bill was also introduced just over two weeks before the five-year anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people and injured 17 others.

"DeSantis is pathetic!" Krassenstein added.

The Florida governor has long promised to pass a constitutional carry bill in his state, telling reporters at a press conference in May 2022, "I can tell you before I am done as governor, we will have a signature on that bill," reported the Democrat.

Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz has also advocated for a permit-less concealed carry bill, tweeting in November 2022, "Florida should be a Constitutional Carry state!" At the time, Gaetz received flak from gun-control advocate Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jamie in the 2018 Parkland shooting.

Guttenberg reiterated his criticism for the permit-less carry bill on Monday, tweeting alongside a link to an ABC News story about the Lakeland shooting: "THIS IS NOT FREEDOM."

During a press conference on Monday, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis, president of FSA, defended the permit-less carry bill when asked how law enforcement would be able to tell if citizens with criminal backgrounds had access to firearms without requiring a permit.

"We know someone is a criminal when they commit a criminal act," Nienhuis said, according to a clip of the press briefing posted to Twitter by the gun-control advocacy group Giffords.

"Whether they have a permit or not, they may or may not be a criminal, those two things are not mutually exclusive," Nienhuis added.

Newsweek has reached out to the office of DeSantis for comment.