Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis visited a popular Georgia gun store Thursday for an event that has drawn denouncements from Democrats for coming just days after the mass school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee.
DeSantis, a likely 2024 Republican presidential candidate, arrived Thursday afternoon at Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna, northwest of Atlanta. The retailer calls itself "largest gun store in the world."
The gun store, which opened in 1977, features “over 80,000 square feet of shooting, hunting and outdoors sports accessories as well as a 17 lane indoor shooting range,” according to its website, and it has more than 18,000 guns in stock.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives recently conducted a spot inspection of the store, according to media reports and a tweet from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.
In his hourlong remarks Thursday, DeSantis devoted little time to the issues of gun safety and violence, although he did offer a brief defense of gun rights.
“I’m proud to be able to stand here and say that we support our Second Amendment rights,” he said.
He then pivoted to other topics that resonate with conservative voters: so-called sanctuary cities, sex changes for minors, Black Lives Matter protests, building a border wall and Covid policies. DeSantis, who has not yet declared his candidacy, held up Florida as a model for the nation while also railing against left-wing “wokeness.”
"You want to tell me that men can get pregnant? No, I’m not buying that,” DeSantis said. “You want to tell me that babies are born racist? No, I’m not believing that.”
Democrats and groups that lobby for action to address gun violence tore into DeSantis for his visit, arguing it was inappropriate so soon after Monday's shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, where the shooter killed three children and three adults.
"Shame on Ron DeSantis for holding a campaign event at a gun store in the wake of yet another horrific school shooting where innocent children were murdered," Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Ga., the chair of the Georgia Democratic Party, said in a statement. "As DeSantis touts his extreme MAGA agenda in Georgia, his allies back home in Florida are paving the way for him to sign legislation that could make it easier for criminals to carry guns — a move that could make children in his state even less safe."
DeSantis' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Moms Demand Action, a group that pushes for gun restrictions, tweeted Thursday, "As the nation mourns the shooting deaths of three children and three staff members at Covenant School, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will be headlining a rally at a gun store in Georgia to celebrate our nation’s deadly gun culture."
And to the Republic, the group hosting the free event in Georgia, a battleground state, has reportedly held several others in support of DeSantis.
“Governor DeSantis delivered a record-setting victory on November 8, 2022 with a battle-tested, bold agenda for the people of Florida,” the event invitation said. “With his historic, nearly 20-point win, Governor Ron DeSantis created a blueprint for freedom in Florida that serves as a model for the rest of the nation. No leader has accomplished more for his state than Governor DeSantis, and he is now sharing this winning blueprint with the country.”