Gov. DeSantis finally comments at length on Buffalo, Uvalde, Parkland and Columbine mass shootings

By: - June 3, 2022 4:21 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed the May 24 Texas elementary school shooting and similar atrocities during a press conference in Orlando on June 3, 2022. FL Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo stands behind him. Source: DeSantis Facebook page

Following Buffalo, Uvalde and Tulsa — what President Joe Biden has called “killing fields” — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis finally commented publicly and at length Friday about the recent mass shootings that have shocked the nation.

The governor and his team had been mostly mum about the horrific events: The white supremacist who killed 10 Black people May 14 at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York; The 18-year-old man who shot and killed 19 children and two teachers at school in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, and another mass shooting Wednesday night at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, leaving four dead.

Prompted by a reporter’s question at a Friday press conference — the news conference was multi-faceted –DeSantis responded for at least seven minutes about a wide range of topics related to mass shootings.

After touting increases in school safety and mental health for the 2022-23 state budget, DeSantis said:

“And you know when you’re talking about school security — the thing is, for whatever reason, I think going back to Columbine, this has become something where these deranged psychopaths have certain targets. And some of them go to schools as a way to kind of maximize the trauma to a community.”

DeSantis continued Friday:

“They’re (mass shooters) very evil people. But what they also are is they do look for areas where they think they’re gonna be able to get away with it,’ DeSantis said.

People gather outside of Tops market in Buffalo, N.Y. A gunman opened fire May 14, 2022 at the store, killing 10 Black people. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

“The Buffalo shooter, for example, said ‘you know I’m going places where I don’t have to worry about people, conceal carry, or anything like that,’” DeSantis said, “because he wants — they wanted basically sitting ducks.”

DeSantis did not remark on the fact that the alleged shooter is a self-proclaimed white supremacist “who traveled more than 200 miles…to commit his attack after carefully choosing the East Side neighborhood in Buffalo because of its large number of Black residents,” according to The New York Times.

The 18-year-old also “had written an extensive series of racist comments in a private online diary, including plans for an attack in Buffalo, photos of tactical gear and the assault-style weapon that officials say he used to carry out the shooting,” the Times wrote.

DeSantis went on to discuss previous efforts in Florida following the Parkland school shooting Feb. 14, 2018, where 17 students and staff members were killed by a gunman at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

At the time, then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which tightened gun laws in several ways, including raising the age from 18 to 21 for all firearm purchases.

Regarding the Uvalde school shooting in Texas, critics have said law enforcement mishandled the active shooter situation.

DeSantis said:

One Year Anniversary Parkland tragedy
A memorial at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, following the mass shooting on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. Getty Images photo by Joe Raedle

“But I can tell, you when I got elected governor and I took office, I met with a lot of the Parkland families, and one of the things that they were so frustrated about was there was no, there was not an adequate effort to rescue their kids. There was not — the shooter didn’t meet the quick resistance that he should have met, and you had a lot of folks that could have been held responsible and nobody had been held responsible. And so, when I came in we decided to do something about that. We removed the sheriff of Broward County,” DeSantis said.

In addition:

“And that’s the thing, you can have the best security in the world, but if you don’t have folks that that are out there when it really counts, which very well may have happened in Texas, then it doesn’t, it’s not going to amount to much,” the governor said. “And so, we support law enforcement more than any, but we also have very high standards. We know in Florida, they’re going to live up to those standards, but we expect them to live up to those standards.”

DeSantis also discussed a statewide grand jury following the Parkland massacre.

“And so accountability I think is very important. And it just seems like in our society now if you commit like some infraction against like political correctness you will have the mob descend on you. They will try to get you fired from your job and all that other stuff. Which is obviously excessive, but if you’re going to do that then, you have these big institutional failures and no one is held accountable.

Then, DeSantis suddenly veered into a discussion on the United States’ withdrawal from the decades long war in Afghanistan last year.

“Who has been held accountable for the debacle in Afghanistan? I don’t think a single person has been held accountable. Seems to me that that would call for some accountability. And again it doesn’t it doesn’t fix the underlying problem. It doesn’t take back — you know, you’re not going to get those 13 service members lives backed by holding people accountable, but I think it makes it less likely that stuff like that is going to happen again in the future.”

DeSantis then moved on to supporting mental health in schools. First Lady Casey DeSantis has promoted several school mental health initiatives over the years.

“You also have the issue of mental health and, you know, my wife is very good on this and, you know, she will always tell me, you know, you have some deranged lunatic — that is not necessarily what we mean by mental health. Yeah, they probably have some mental problems, for sure. Maybe there could have been interventions.

“But, you know, we talked about mental health in the schools, a lot of these are just normal kids that are going through difficult times. You know, it’s not like everyone that needs mental health services is a would-be school assassin. Now, that’s not true and I don’t wanna lump them in together, but I also do think some of these people have so many warning signs and it just gets ignored time and time again.

“The Parkland shooter clearly with somebody that was a big time problem in terms of how he was behaving. And so we’ve done things like, since I’ve been governor, behavioral threat assessment, so that if somebody’s in school they’re online posting that they’re going to do some really bad stuff that you take it seriously. That you understand that there may be people who (are) going to act against the best interests of the community. And then not just kind of hope nothing happens. That you be more aggressive on.

He added: “Because these people, you know, they’re so deranged, but they want attention and they want to do things that are going to be able to get their names in the headlines.”

“I do think that when these things happen, we shouldn’t even know the person, the person’s face. You’re giving them too much credit. But we’re going to continue to, to be very strong in terms of our school safety. I just think as a parent of young kids, that’s something, that’s very sensitive to me and to my wife.”

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.