DeSantis to dangerous gun ‘nut jobs’: ‘You’re not going to walk out of there alive’

‘If you try that you’re going to end up on your ass,’ he says

By: - June 8, 2022 1:38 pm

Gun wall rack with rifles. Credit: Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that he prefers to target gun “lunatics” rather than gun rights to prevent mass shootings.

During a news conference he called in Fort Myers Beach to highlight his environmental record, the governor replied to a reporter’s question about guns by seeming to lament the closure of large mental hospitals decades ago where dangerous people could be held.

DeSantis didn’t exactly call for a return to these institutions but he warned: “If you’re one of these nut jobs, just know: If you try that you’re going to end up on your ass and it’s not going to end up being pretty and you’re not going to walk out of there alive.”

He added: “But when you’re dealing with it [gun crime], what you do is, you focus on the criminal. You focus on the lunatic. You don’t kneecap the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

As DeSantis spoke, the U.S. House was working on legislation to raise the age of purchasing semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21 — which Florida already has done; toughen safety requirements for storing guns in a home with children; hinder gun trafficking: require that all firearms be traceable; and close a loophole allowing bump stocks, which allow semiautomatic weapons to fire more rapidly. Negotiations also have been underway in the U.S. Senate.

In Florida, legislative Democrats are attempting to build support for a special session on guns but they aren’t attempting to ban the assault-type weapons used in Uvalde and elsewhere. Instead, they want to restrict high-capacity rifle magazines, universal criminal background checks for all firearms, and expanded red flag laws used to seize firearms from people posing serious threats to themselves or others.

School security

In Fort Myers Beach, DeSantis emphasized increased spending on school security since the Feb. 14, 2018, deaths of 17 students and staff members by a gunman at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He also pointed to failures by authorities to respond to signals before the attack that the shooter was dangerous.

“The failures of both law enforcement and the school system I think were really, really difficult,” he said. “When something could have been preventing by holding this guy accountable when you had all these different opportunities to do it and you don’t, you know, that’s a problem.”

Mental health “spans a variety of things. I mean, traditional mental health is just people going through normal things in life. They’re not a danger to the community, most people who need mental health services,” the governor said.

“You do have some people that are just really just off their rocker. You need an intervention when you have that.

Insane asylums

“I mean, honestly, they used to have people would go to these insane asylums and it was something that, these are folks that couldn’t function in society. They were a danger to the community and then they were basically committed. We’ve kind of deinstitutionalized that now, so you really need to have a concerted effort to be able to have interventions to identify some of the people who are not safe to be around the community.

“And it can involve firearms but it can involve way more ways where these folks can be able to harm. And so, these types of people who are doing things, targeting kids, targeting innocent people, you know, they are really, really, bad people,” he said.

“They are not dumb, because they pick their targets and they know — and the Buffalo guy said he wanted to go where he knew there wouldn’t be blow-back from people being armed, and so he tried to find a gun-free zone.”

He referred to a white supremacist’s murder of 10 people in a grocery store in a Black community in upstate New York.

“So, they do analyze it like that. But they have something that’s wrong with them that would cause them to do it. And, most of the time, there will be signals that this is somebody that’s not with it.”

“But when you’re dealing with it, what you do is, you focus on the criminal. You focus on the lunatic. You don’t kneecap the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.