Ron DeSantis sounded like he said Sunday that he doesn’t blame guns or easier access to them for a dramatic increase in gun deaths under the first three years of his administration.
Instead, DeSantis said he blames COVID-19, only to have his campaign clarify that it was a matter of miscommunication and a rushed transition by the interviewer to other topics.
During an interview on Meet the Press, the Governor was confronted with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stats that show not just more deaths due to firearms, but also a higher rate per capita than was the case under former Gov. Rick Scott.
“The what mortality rate, no, no, no,” DeSantis said.
“Because, well, because you had COVID and all that stuff. Excess mortality … is that what you’re saying? That went up everywhere in the country from 2020 on,” DeSantis said, either misunderstanding the question or deliberately flubbing his response.
Florida Politics reached out to DeSantis’s spokesperson, Jeremy Redfern, for clarification on what DeSantis may have understood the question to be.
We were told the interview was organized by the campaign, and then reached out to the campaign. A spokesperson suggested the analysis should reflect that the Governor asked for clarification, but the host quickly moved on.
The exchange came after an extended back and forth with host Kristen Welker, in which he again explained his position that “involuntary commitment” would have stopped the mass slaughter in Maine this week, in which 18 people were gunned down by a former Army Reservist who a state official said had not been committed involuntarily and was able to get the AR-15 legally.
Regarding the statistics, they are clear in showing a general upward trend in gun deaths since 2014. The rate went from 11.5 to 12.9 per 100,000 people under Scott’s term, which ended in 2018.
In 2019, there was a slight decline, to 12.7. That was in the wake of legislation signed by Scott that, among other changes, banned people under the age of 21 from buying guns in the wake of a massacre at a high school in Parkland in 2018.
But 2020 and 2021 brought increases unseen in Scott’s era, with 13.7 casualties per 100,000 people in 2020 and 14.1 in 2021.
The population of Florida has grown, and the number of deaths along with it. In 2014, that number was at 2,410. By 2021, it ballooned to 3,142. That said, the rate of Florida gun deaths per capita is the seventeenth lowest in the country.
DeSantis was not compelled to respond on national television to the most recent mass shooting in Ybor City, but his office posted to social media that it’s “been in constant contact with (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement) and (is) offering all available resources to local law enforcement to respond to this terrible situation.”
The stats may be affected by legal changes, meanwhile. DeSantis signed permitless carry legislation this year, and has campaigned on it in some places as he runs for President.
“We have stood for the second amendment by enacting constitutional carry,” DeSantis said in Utah, at an event where (ironically enough) guns were not allowed.
His claim is that the Legislature won’t move on them.
“The Republicans passed it in the Legislature before, before I was Governor. I mean, they all voted, right. They all voted on it. It passed overwhelmingly and there’s not an appetite amongst them to review their votes basically,” he said on CNN Thursday evening.