Gov. DeSantis’ silence on Texas school murders fits a pattern, critics contend
Uvalde can take a lesson from Parkland on managing the coming wave of trauma. Image via AP.

Uvalde-texas-school-shooting-victims
‘I have no interest in being part of people’s political narratives.’

Gov. Ron DeSantis has not shied away from commenting on national and international controversies. China, Venezuela, our southern border — he’ll opine at great length and ferocity.

About the mass murder this week in Uvalde, Texas — where an 18-year-old shot to death 19 small kids and two teachers — he has uttered not a peep beyond ordering flags at state and local facilities flown at half-staff — and it was President Joe Biden’s proclamation.

Neither has the Governor spoken in detail about his hopes for a Florida abortion policy beyond the 15-week gestation ban he signed into law recently, even as the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade at any time.

And DeSantis has been ambiguous about his call for the Legislature to send him a “constitutional carry” bill liberalizing Floridians’ right to arm themselves. He’s said he wants to sign such a law but offered zero details about what he hopes that would do.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running to replace DeSantis this year, has vowed to sign an assault weapons ban if elected. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, another Democratic gubernatorial candidate, has promoted his own plan “to tackle the gun violence epidemic head-on.”

On Thursday, Fried urged a special session on gun violence in a letter to the governor. “As a self-proclaimed ‘defender of life’ who just two months ago said that ‘life is a sacred gift worthy of our protection,’ I am sure we can agree that it is imperative for our state to act immediately to protect the lives of innocent Floridians from gun violence,” she wrote.

Even Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, Florida’s two Republican U.S. Senators, have issued statements decrying the violence.

A pattern

DeSantis’ silence fits a pattern, according to Mac Stipanovich, a veteran political consultant who quit the Republican Party after Donald Trump took it over. He’s now registered with no party affiliation.

“Whenever there is the slightest chance that he will profit politically from taking a public stance, he will light himself on fire. Whether its masks, vaccinations, the misrepresentation of critical race theory, calling people who opposed HB 1557 [the Parental Rights in Education or “Don’t Say Gay” law] groomers, it’s not that they’re tongue-tied,” Stipanovich said in a telephone interview of the Governor’s Office.

“But whenever there’s any possibility that a vote in the right-wing base might be lost, there’s deafening silence,” Stipanovich said.

Patricia Brigham, president of the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, also has noticed DeSantis’ reticence.

“Why he’s remained silent, I couldn’t say. It’s unusual, but we know this is a political football. It shouldn’t be, but it is,” she told the Phoenix.

The Phoenix sent an email to the governor’s press office at 11:20 Thursday asking whether DeSantis plans a statement about Texas or has worked out a position on optimal abortion legislation. We haven’t heard back yet but will update this story if we do.

DeSantis hasn’t always remained silent about mass murders. Shortly after taking office, he visited the Pulse nightclub in Orlando to observe the third anniversary of a mass shooting that killed 49 people (although his executive order commemorating the tragedy originally failed to mention the victims were LGBTQ+).

Also early in his tenure, DeSantis petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to impanel a statewide grand jury following the Parkland massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

‘People’s political narratives’

Desantis has avoided being drawn into such matters when it doesn’t suit him. For example, seven months after taking office, he rejected suggestions that Donald Trump’s embrace of white nationalism egged on a mass shooting of Hispanic people in El Paso that killed 22.

“I have no interest in being part of people’s political narratives. I understand the narratives. I’ve seen it for years and years. I’m trying to focus on solutions,” DeSantis said at the time.

He did note that he’d ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to develop a “threat assessment strategy” – “so that when most of these people are administering warning signs or red flags, that we’re in a position to be able to do something about it and have an intervention.”

The Phoenix asked the agency how that effort was going but we haven’t heard back yet.

He seemed skeptical about Florida’s “red flag” law, which permits law enforcement officers to petition judges to remove firearms from people considered at risk of committing violence.

DeSantis said during his 2018 campaign for governor that he would have vetoed legislation enacted following the Parkland school shooting that raised the age limit for weapons purchased from 18 to 21 and expanded the waiting period for handgun sales.

“This is a pattern with him,” Stipanovich said.

Ukraine

“Go back to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where he refused to say anything about that at the time,” he said.

DeSantis did lag behind other political figures in discussing the incursion, although he eventually praised Ukraine’s “moxie” and dismissed Vladimir Putin as “basically an authoritarian gas station attendant, OK, with some legacy nuclear weapons from the old Soviet Union.”

Before that happened, Press Secretary Christina Pushaw defended DeSantis’ silence, writing on Twitter: “It’s incredible how many journalists don’t understand that the governor of Florida’s job is to lead our state, why is he expected to comment on Russia/Ukraine?”

By engaging in a debate, the governor would open himself to the responsibility to suggest doing something about the problem, Stipanovich said.

“He gains nothing from it. He’s the epitome of self-interest when it comes to these types of things.”

Similarly, DeSantis was slow to offer more than anodyne comments about the U.S. Supreme Court’s moves toward reversing Roe v. Wade or enacting “constitutional carry” rights for firearms, Stipanovich argued.

“Why raise his head above the parapet and risk a wound by diving in?” he said.

On constitutional carry, DeSantis benefits from public confusion about whether he means permitless concealed carry or open carry — that is, letting people carry concealed weapons without training or background checks versus allowing them to wander the streets openly displaying firearms.

“The difference between those two positions is huge. Do you know what the Governor’s position is? What he means when he says, ‘constitutional carry?’ No. He hadn’t said,” Stipanovich said.

‘No percentage’

“He positions himself so people can see and hear what they want to see and hear. The right-wing gun nuts hear open carry, but those who think they’re a little more reasonable hear permitless carry. He lets all of them think what they want to think. Because there’ no percentage in him taking a real stand until the politics are clear to him.”

Brigham made much the same point. “Constitutional carry” is “a misnomer,” she said.

“It’s inaccurate. There’s no such thing as constitutional carry. It would be permitless carry, which means you would not have to undergo the more rigorous background check you receive when you apply for a permit, and the firearm-proficiency training that you have to take would go away.

“Now that this shooting has taken place, we’re hopeful that we won’t see that issue arise but we, at the same time, are vigilant,” Brigham said.

As for abortion, when signing the 15-week ban into law on April 14, DeSantis proclaimed: “We are there to defend those who can’t defend themselves,” adding, “This will represent the most significant protections for life that have been enacted in this state in a generation.”

No response to protest

But there was no response when the anti-abortion group, Florida Voice for the Unborn, demonstrated at the Florida Capitol this week demanding a special session to enact additional restrictions. Neither did legislative leaders react publicly.

Asked about it, Andrew Shirvell, the group’s founder and executive director, wrote an email describing the ultimate goal:

“Florida Voice for the Unborn’s position is that we want the governor to call an immediate special legislative session to abolish all abortions in Florida. That means a full prohibition on abortion so that all unborn children are protected from the moment of conception onward under the laws of the state of Florida.”

That means no exceptions for rape, incest, or human trafficking — only to preserve the life of the pregnant person. “If the mother’s life is truly in danger, such as in an ectopic pregnancy, then the medical procedure to save her life is not considered an abortion because abortions are the intentional killing of an unborn child,” he said.

As for DeSantis: “I expect Gov. DeSantis will become much more publicly vocal about what he plans to do to end abortion in Florida once the final Dobbs decision is issued,” Shirvell said. That’s the case the Supreme Court will soon decide testing Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.

___

Michael Moline reporting via Florida Phoenix.

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: [email protected] Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

Florida Phoenix

Florida Phoenix is a news and opinion outlet focused on government and political news coverage within the state of Florida.


13 comments

  • Just a comment

    May 27, 2022 at 10:09 am

    Mass shooting is a good way to disarm Americans they will need to go into the black market good stroke of plan

  • PeterH

    May 27, 2022 at 10:34 am

    Today’s Republican Party is controlled by their puppet master …… the gun lobby. Instead of revisiting the now obsolete language of the Second Amendment…..Republicans want schools, movie theaters, businesses, government buildings, beach access points, places of worship and shopping malls to install airport style metal detectors and security guards to pat down every person who enters a venue.

    Where exactly will ‘open carry’ persons be allowed to enter?

    Yet ….. Americans keep voting for today’s Republican Party ……Republican candidates who are complete a embarrassment to American safety and conservative values.

  • Tom

    May 27, 2022 at 10:54 am

    This badgering and harassment is ridiculous.
    The Governor has been involved in a tense and challenged special session. He helped guide through two major reforms. One on homeowners insurance and another on condo association inspections.

    Stipanovich is harassing and using his support for Crist and anti Desantis badgering.

    Gov has 3 very young children and his wife suffered through recent illness.

    How low will ultra media and frauds like Stipanovich go. To suggest his focus on affairs of his state are secondary to other tragedies is offensive. Stop politicizing everything.
    All govt is local as Tip O’Neill would say. He said politics, I am paraphrasing.

    My goodness. Trying to place this on America’s Govs door mat is wrong. Like Beto O’Rourke , shameful.

    • TJC

      May 27, 2022 at 11:21 am

      I’m sure DeSantis is grateful to have suck-ups like you jump in and paint him as a poor suffering victim who just can’t talk right now, just can’t offer his opinion on anything outside of Florida (he’s so busy! he has kids!) when in fact the blowhard runs his mouth about anything that he’s sure will play to his base, anything in the world. As soon as he and his peeps figure out a statement that will benefit him, the Gov will offer his thoughts about the massacre of children. And not one minute sooner.

      • Tom

        May 27, 2022 at 12:14 pm

        TJC, as usual you engage in fallacy.
        Driving the news in Florida is America’s Gov, pulling the LBJ treatment with substantial wins on jnsursnce and condo safety. His quiet leadership as leader of men!

        This great political leader in Florida’s history making a difference daily, by the hour for the peeps. The boy whiz kid, having served county faithfully, selfishly and with honor.

        Compared to the 5 and dimers on this page, manchurian haters. TJC you have no substance, just a hack.

        America’s Governor for all. Do for America what you have accomplished for Florida’.

    • Sister Mary Holy Picture

      May 27, 2022 at 11:34 am

      Have you requisitioned replacement knee pads Tom? You’re officially the laughing stock of Florida Politics!

      • Tom

        May 27, 2022 at 11:18 pm

        Hardly Sista. I am legend!
        You are the queen of the knee bend.
        You are legend in your own way.
        As for me, hardly a laugh with FP. I am truth and the light. J D says I drive clicks unlike anyone else Sista. I am Legend of FP.

        America’s Gov the best. He wipes the floor with the Dums like the three of you.

        DeSantis rock star.

  • TJC

    May 27, 2022 at 11:14 am

    DeSantis is a coward. He yaps about “elites” doing this and that, but he is an Ivy League educated snob himself, a man whose education implies he could–if he had the spine–stand alone like a man and lead the people of Florida to a better life. Instead, he has leashed his balls to public opinion and is led around by it or, as in the instances noted above, has to wait (quietly, good boy!) to be led by it.

    • Tom

      May 28, 2022 at 7:21 am

      Total moronic and ignorant diatribe with no understanding from TJC.

      America’s Governor is a leader of men. On the baseball diamond as team captain, as enlisted naval attorney for seal team & captain, as asst. U S Attorney, Member of Congress and now as Gov whiz kid. Wonderful record of accomplishment and success. Unlike you TJC, a panty licker.

      Making a difference in Florida’s lives. America’s Gov for all. Rising tide for all, not a few like Biden/Harris, who have destroyed lives with economic ruin. Florida prospers, the state of freedom, liberty, economic prosperity, family joy, happiness.

      DeSantis the best! Do for America whet you’ve done for Florida !

  • Don’t Look Up, you might see something

    May 27, 2022 at 11:23 am

    It’s obvious to anyone with common sense:

    Ron DeSantis is still tightly wrapped up with Greg Abbot in their “thoughts and prayers” vigil.

    Please give DeSantis time to pray before he releases legislation for “open carry” with no restrictions or permits on the FREEDUMB STATE OF FLORIDA

    • Tom

      May 27, 2022 at 2:25 pm

      All three of you. TJC, Sista and Don’t Look are despicable non beings.

      You are clueless, hapless and helpless. Actually, I have led FP from the political abyss. I suffer you Manchurians gladly, as I’ve made FP more centered, kicking and screaming. People come from all over the country to read my stinging replies. My conservative views are consensus. I am the FP legend.

      You have no substance, just cheap, worn out Dem talking points.

      DeSantis, America’s Gov saved Florida, even for you pathetic Manchurians. It’s world recognized that his methods worked. All decisions proved correct. Florida’s economy number one!

      The liberal left is deranged and worried bout his candidacy. You all sound very jealous and petty,

      America’s Gov., rising tide for all, not a few like Biden, Harris and Dums.

      DeSantis the best! You losers, just a bunch of smelly Adam Schiff in a Nancy Pelosi nanny sack. LMAO

    • Tom

      May 28, 2022 at 7:10 am

      Your idiocy is overwhelming “don’t look. Finding humor in a tragedy is sick and mentally deficient. Looking to wrongfully attack America’s Governor over this awful incident demonstrates your obsessive hate.

  • Tom

    May 27, 2022 at 2:33 pm

    TJC, Sista and don’t look are pathetic non humans.

    DeSantis is world recognized as great leader of freedom. Leader of men. America’s Gov., you three are retread Dem talking points.

    LMAO. Whiz kid Gov whizzes on you 3.
    I am the legend of FP. You are manure Adam Schiff on a stick. Enjoy,

Comments are closed.


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