By: José Niño
On May 25, 2023, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) declared that former President Donald Trump’s push for taking guns away from people before going through due process is unconstitutional.
The day following his announcement about his campaign for the Republican Party presidential nomination, DeSantis took Trump to task for his position on so-called red flag gun confiscation orders. He asserted that Trump’s 2018 policy idea to take guns away from people who could potentially pose a danger to themselves or others prior to going through due process in the court system infringes on several constitutional rights.
“That’s unconstitutional,” DeSantis said to conservative media personality Dana Loesch. “It violates the Second Amendment, but I think, even more important, it violates the Fifth Amendment because they can’t take anything from you without due process. It’s not just firearms. And, so, the idea that you’re seizing people’s property and then promising due process later; that is wrong. That’s not something I would support.”
DeSantis is viewed as Trump’s most credible challenger in the Republican primary. In recent months, DeSantis has signed pro-gun reforms such as Constitutional Carry and has used these legislative accomplishments to present himself as the most pro-Second Amendment candidate among his peers.
The Florida governor’s criticism of Trump originates from Trump’s comments in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre. At the time, the Trump administration was flirting with the idea of supporting several gun control measures.
Stephen Gutowski of The Reload noted that Trump mocked his Republican colleagues for being intimidated by the NRA and stated that he would support the legislative efforts of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Of note, Trump backed the concept of enacting a “red flag” gun confiscation order that would grant government officials the power to seize guns from individuals suspected of posing a threat to themselves or others.
At this meeting, then-Vice President Mike Pence said red flag orders can “give families and give local law enforcement additional tools if an individual is reported to be a potential danger to themselves or others.”
“Allow due process so no one’s rights are trampled,” Pence commented at the meeting, per a report by the Washington Free Beacon. “The ability to go to court, obtain an order, and then collect not only the firearms but any weapons in the possession of that individual…”
“Or, Mike, take the firearms first and then go to court,” Trump interjected. “Because, a lot of times, by the time you go to court, it takes so long to go to court, to get the due process procedures—I like taking the guns early. Like in this crazy man’s case, that just took place in Florida, he had a lot of firearms, they saw everything—to go to court would have taken a long time, so you could do exactly what you’re saying, but take the guns first, go through due process second.”
For his part, DeSantis has not been very keen about supporting “red flag” laws. DeSantis said to Fox13 in 2019 that most mass shooters demonstrate several red flags prior to committing their heinous acts, and “I think we need to identify that and do something about it.” That said, DeSantis insisted that he would have vetoed the red flag order then-Governor Rick Scott signed into law had he been occupying the governor’s mansion at the time.
If DeSantis were smart, he would continue to target any of Trump’s perceived weakness on Second Amendment matters. If there is one constituency that can swing competitive races, it’s angry gun owners.
Although Trump appears to be the prohibitive favorite to win the GOP nomination, DeSantis could still make a lot of noise by running an unapologetic pro-Second Amendment campaign.
Politicians should never underestimate the power of the gun issue.