by Lee Williams
Donors attending the upcoming “Ronald Reagan Black Tie and Blue Jeans BBQ” will have to decide for themselves whether hearing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speak is worth an infringement of their Second Amendment rights.
The $60-per-plate fundraiser will be held Thursday in the Legacy Park Multipurpose Center – a public building owned by the city of Alachua, Florida, which is taxpayer funded and supported.
The barbecue was organized by the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee. It’s their annual fundraiser.
Once attendees purchased tickets online, they were warned in an email that their gun rights would be forfeit:
********** IMPORTANT NOTICE **********
Be aware that all guests will be required to pass through a security check-point at entry which will include scanning by METAL DETECTOR.
********** IMPORTANT NOTICE **********
The warning was signed by Ann Stone, treasurer of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee.
A Florida Carry member who purchased four tickets for the event told Stone in an email that banning firearms from a public event on public property is illegal.
“Just a quick note, since the facility is city-owned on city property, concealed carry CANNOT be banned during the event. That’s the law. I hope everyone understands this,” the member wrote in the email to Stone.
Stone responded by warning the member DeSantis might pull out if he raised the issue.
“It might be the law but Ron DeSantis is NOT speaking unless there are no guns or other weapons. I think you would be mobbed if you caused him to leave without speaking,” Stone said in her reply.
Delanie Bomar, press secretary for the Ron DeSantis for Governor campaign, did not respond to several requests seeking comment for this story.
Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Stone confirmed that it was the Alachua County REC that organized the event. However, she said the DeSantis campaign and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FLDE) gave them a list of very specific rules.
“All I know is that he will not appear if there are guns there,” Stone said. “It’s more his campaign. They’re not organizing the event, but they gave us the rules for having him on board, and that’s the rules they gave us.”
Stone said the Alachua County REC did not receive a written copy of these rules, adding that they were given “vocally.” She also said she possessed a valid Florida Concealed Weapon and Firearm License but was more than willing to be disarmed.
“I am a gun person, but what I see is that Ron DeSantis is an up-and-comer. He’s important and needs to be protected, so I have no problem going without my gun,” she said.
Stone claimed she does not see concealed-carry licensees as a threat but added that “people bought tickets to begin with, and who knows who they could be.”
“We didn’t make the rules,” she said. “But we have to live with them.”
While the concealed carry of firearms is perfectly legal in the governor’s office, it is unclear why it is not legal at a fundraiser held on public-owned property.
If FDLE issued the no-guns directive they are regulating firearms, which violates Florida’s powerful preemption statute. Signed into law in 1987, the preemption statute only allows the state legislature to regulate guns, and it has severe penalties for any public official who violates the law, including a $5,000 fine and removal from office.
The Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project sent a Florida Public Records Request to FDLE seeking copies of the rules they use when DeSantis speaks at a public event.
Stone claimed the concealed-carry ban was lawful because the barbecue was no longer a public event, at least not anymore.
“According to someone, they ran it past legal and legal said it was a ‘closed event,’ so it’s okay,” she said. “Members of the public could buy tickets but then we closed it. There aren’t any more tickets available.”
Eric Friday, general counsel for Florida Carry and one of the most experienced Second Amendment attorneys in the state, said local party leaders should look at their own platform, which supports gun rights.
“After 35 years of preemption in Florida, it’s disturbing that FDLE and some people still think they have the ability to limit citizens’ self-defense rights,” he said.
DeSantis is running for reelection against former governor Charlie Crist. While DeSantis has promised to sign a constitutional carry bill, Crist supports Joe Biden’s entire anti-gun agenda and more – including “assault weapon” and standard-capacity magazine bans, as well as repeal of Florida’s preemption statute. To be clear, DeSantis wants to expand our gun rights, while Crist wants even more infringements.
Since his campaign spokeswoman did not return calls, it is not known if DeSantis is even aware that he will be speaking to an audience that was unlawfully disarmed.
Legally armed Floridians are not a threat, especially to a governor whom so many admire. At the very least, this is incredibly bad staff work and terrible optics by members of his campaign.
Going forward, I hope the DeSantis campaign will factor in gun rights when it plans future events. There are more than a few of us who would not willingly disarm even if Ronald Reagan himself was speaking at the Ronald Reagan Black Tie and Blue Jeans BBQ.