touted himself Friday as a champion of “common, decent gun reform” and picked up an endorsement from a pro-gun control organization during a Broward County campaign stop.
The Democratic nominee for governor also repeatedly ducked questions about one of his supporters — , whose performance in connection with the massacre is highly controversial.
Republican gubernatorial nominee was more direct. Israel “didn‘t hold himself accountable, and I don‘t think he did a good job of protecting the people of ,” DeSantis said at a campaign stop in .
Avoiding the topic
After receiving an endorsement from the Florida arm of the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America at an event in , Gillum pivoted in his answers to reporters’ questions about the sheriff, instead talking about his desire for “common sense” gun reforms and ways to “make it safer for our kids” at schools and in their communities.
Asked if he had confidence in Israel, Gillum said: “The sheriff is the elected, democratically elected sheriff of this county.
“I think it is unnecessary to pit individuals, either families or victims or law enforcement against each other. What we have to put our attention on is passing the kind of gun reform that will prevent these kinds of incidents from happening in the future.”
Of the support he is receiving from Israel, he said he is “happy to accept support of individuals who mean our communities good and mean them well.
“And that’s what I would hope we’d focus our attention on, is what are the steps we can take to create safer communities for our kids and for our families. Anything short of that is simply a distraction.”
Shortly before his stop in Plantation, Gillum held a in a suburban office building. Israel was on the invitation for the fundraiser and attended the closed-door event.
Heather Chapman, of Parkland, wearing a “Moms Demand Action” T-shirt, said she went to the endorsement rally to support Gillum.
She felt that was important to do “because I see a lot of momentum being taken away from Gillum” since the his campaign.
“I think a lot of people in our community are not happy with him [Israel],” Chapman said, adding she does not have confidence in the sheriff. “No. Definitely not.”
Her daughter, Mackenzie Chapman, 17, is a senior at Stoneman Douglas.
the Sheriff’s Office didn’t do a good job in handling repeated calls involving the shooter beforehand and didn’t do a good job on the day of the shooting. One of those critics is Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was among the 17 killed in the massacre.
Earlier this week, Pollack took to Twitter in response to news that Israel was supporting Gillum. “The disgraceful sheriff that is partially responsible for the death of my daughter is out campaigning for Andrew Gillum. DeSantis will hold failed ‘leaders’ like Israel accountable.”
DeSantis said Friday he is working with Pollack on a school security plan.
If he had been governor at the time, DeSantis has said over his agency’s actions leading up to and during the shooting. “I can tell you in the Navy if a ship has run aground, it doesn‘t matter if the captain personally did that. The captain is relieved of duty. I think it‘s an issue of accountability.”
Gillum indicated he didn’t want to respond to Pollack. “I’m never going to push back on a grieving father.”
At Friday’s Gillum event, Gloria Pierce, of Pembroke Pines, said she thinks it is unfair to blame Israel for what happened at Stoneman Douglas.
“I fully support him,” she said. “I never felt that blame should be put on Sheriff Israel.”
As the Gillum fundraiser was ending, a outside. “My concern is that Sheriff Israel doesn’t do his job. He’s not protecting our children,” said Gina Garcia, of Fort Lauderdale, who was holding a sign that said “#Fixit #StopGillum.”
Israel on Friday. As he left the Gillum fundraiser, a reporter asked the sheriff, “Do you have a moment?” Israel’s response: “I’m afraid I don’t.”
Gillum said he supports a ban on assault-style weapons. “Anyone who wants to fire a weapon that can fire 60 bullets in 60 seconds should join the military,” he said.
Polling shows has declined in the seven months since the Stoneman Douglas massacre.
Gillum said that polls shouldn’t determine public policy. “The reason you do the right thing is because it’s right, not because it’s politically popular. If you were to poll the popularity of civil rights in the early ’60s, late ’50s, it would not have been popular at the time but it was still the right thing to do.”
Gillum, who has tangled with the in his current job as Tallahassee mayor, said the gun lobby “runs roughshod” over state government. Besides Moms Demand Action, he was also endorsed Friday by the group Everytown for Gun Safety and on Thursday by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
DeSantis is a self-described “big Second Amendment guy,” and his latest grade from the NRA, released in July, is an “A.” DeSantis has been a congressman from northeast Florida. He resigned last week four months before the end of his third term to focus on campaigning for governor.
“The contrast between myself and my opponent on the issue of guns could not be any clearer,” Gillum said. “Mr. DeSantis believes in guns everywhere, even if they are issued without any responsibility, no background checks, doesn’t believe in the common [sense] laws that were just passed this past legislative session in the aftermath of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, which took place not too far from here.”
Florida gun law
The new state law raised the minimum age to buy rifles and shotguns from 18 to 21, extends the previous three-day waiting period for handgun purchases to include long guns and bans bump stocks that allow firearms to perform like automatic weapons.
Though Gillum spoke positively about the new law, he declined to say whether he would have signed it or vetoed it if he’d been governor at the time. He said the failure to include more restrictions on guns was a misstep. “I would have worked hard to make it better,” he said.
DeSantis has said he would have told the Legislature to send him elements that enhanced school security and mental health programs — but not restrictions on guns that he views as infringements on the Second Amendment. He said he would have vetoed the measure.
Staff writer Skyler Swisher contributed to this report.
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