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Fireworks between John Rutherford, Donald Trump in gun control discussion

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford has been a devoted surrogate for President Donald Trump on virtually every issue of note since the two men came into office last year.

But during a Florida-heavy roundtable discussion on gun law reform at the White House Wednesday, Rutherford and Trump had a number of sharp exchanges that were at odds with the attempt at consensus building.

Former Jacksonville Sheriff Rutherford dominated the microphone, with his interactions with Trump taking up seven minutes of the hour discussion.

The first discussion point had to do with “gun free zones,” which Rutherford — a concealed weapon permit holder and enthusiast who backs CWP reciprocity legislation — described as a place where people can “kill at will.”

“The reason I carry a concealed firearm everywhere I go,” Rutherford continued, “is because I don’t know where the gun free zones are. I may be walking through it at the mall, or at the donut shop, or wherever I might be. So that’s why I carry concealed.”

The President pushed back.

“You’re not allowed concealed in a gun free zone,” Trump said, adding that, regarding reciprocity, “you’re not going to get concealed carry approved” as Democrats will oppose it.

Trump did agree that he wanted to get rid of gun free zones, at least on military bases, but Rutherford wasn’t finished.

“Everytime I walk into someplace carrying concealed, I end a gun free zone,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford went on to describe a flaw with the Baker Act: having to give the previously committed person a gun back at the end of his commitment.

“I tried not to do that one time,” Rutherford said. “We lost the case. I had to give the guy his gun back and we got fined.”

From there, Rutherford described the dangers posed by stolen guns, which he said could be curbed with point of sale background checks.

“Here’s what you do. You require a purchaser’s permit at the point of sale of every gun in this country,” Rutherford said.

“I think the NRA would love that,” Trump muttered sarcastically.

“If I don’t have my permit, it’s against the law for him to sell it to me, and against the law for me to buy it,” Rutherford said, noting that unpermitted sales would lead to the possibility of law enforcement going undercover and busting the unpermitted sales.

“You’d have a real black market,” Trump said, “they sell the gun and the buyer doesn’t care and the seller doesn’t. You have that problem with drugs … you’d have the same problem with guns, a black market where people don’t even think of registering.”

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at

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