DeSantis rips federal bump stock ban, while Florida ban remains

He says he’d repeal the federal ban if elected president. As governor, he’s done little to address it in his own state.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at an event Oct. 14 in Creston, Iowa. During another trip to that state last weekend, he told Iowans he would repeal the federal bump stock ban as president, a measure put in place by the Trump administration.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at an event Oct. 14 in Creston, Iowa. During another trip to that state last weekend, he told Iowans he would repeal the federal bump stock ban as president, a measure put in place by the Trump administration. [ CHARLIE NEIBERGALL | AP ]
Published Oct. 28, 2023|Updated Oct. 28, 2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this month said that as president he would repeal a federal ban on bump stocks, the devices that allow semiautomatic rifles to rapidly fire without multiple pulls of a trigger.

But even if he succeeded, Florida would still have its own ban in state statute — one that DeSantis has not made an effort to repeal as governor.

DeSantis made the comments at an event in Iowa last weekend. He also said he would repeal President Joe Biden’s restriction on pistol braces, which allow a weapon to be fired with one hand.

The federal bump stock ban was created with a rule during President Donald Trump’s administration.

DeSantis said the gun orders were unconstitutional because they created legislation without congressional authorization, setting aside the issue of whether they violate the Second Amendment.

But Adzi Vokhiwa, the federal affairs director at Giffords, an anti-gun-violence organization, said the federal firearms agency has the right to review and regulate firearms technology, as Trump directed.

The use of a bump stock accelerates a weapon’s rate of fire, meaning it can fire multiple shots with one pull of a trigger, Vokhiwa said. She said that makes a gun almost like an automatic weapon.

“The rule is in line with existing law that regulates machine guns, and that’s ultimately where the courts have landed,” Vokhiwa said.

Two federal appeals courts have ruled against the bump stock ban, and the Justice Department has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the ruling.

Florida’s bump stock ban was implemented months before the federal ban was put into place. It was part of a mammoth piece of legislation in response to the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, where a gunman killed 17 people and injured 17 others. The bill created red-flag laws, prohibited someone younger than 21 from purchasing a rifle and banned bump stocks.

At the time, DeSantis was running for governor and said he would have vetoed the bill.

But in office, as a governor who has often led the way on legislation, DeSantis has not made any major move to repeal the law. This past session, the Florida House passed a bill that would undo the provision that raised the rifle purchase age — a measure supported by DeSantis. But the Senate never put forward a companion bill, and the measure failed.

Jeremy Redfern, a spokesperson for DeSantis, said in an email that “constitutionally, the governor cannot unilaterally repeal a statute.” He highlighted DeSantis’ previous comments about how he would have vetoed the bill and said the governor’s position hasn’t changed.

During an interview with CNN on Thursday night, DeSantis put the onus on the Legislature when asked why he hasn’t moved to repeal the red flag provision that was passed in the Parkland bill.

“It passed overwhelmingly and there’s not an appetite amongst them to reverse their votes,” DeSantis said.

Fifteen states, including Florida, have some kind of ban on bump stocks, according to Vokhiwa, with the anti-gun-violence group.

Both House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo voted for the Parkland bill that created the bump stock ban when they were lawmakers. When asked if there was a plan to remove Florida’s bump stock ban, or interest in such a step, a spokesperson for Passidomo said no. A spokesperson for the House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Luis Valdes, Florida State Director of Gun Owners of America, said his organization opposes the ban on bump stocks because they see it as a violation of the Second Amendment.

He said the biggest barrier to changing that in Florida is the current legislative leadership. DeSantis has previously signaled he would go further on loosening Florida gun laws, but the Legislature has not complied.

This past session, DeSantis said he would support an open carry measure, but it was never included in the final permitless carry legislation DeSantis signed into law.

“The governor only has so much political capital that he can spend to get things passed via the Legislature,” Valdes said.

As he has with many other social issues, like abortion and immigration, DeSantis could be using guns as a way to outflank Trump to the right. After Trump defended the bump stock ban earlier this year, the DeSantis-aligned Super PAC Never Back Down criticized him for it with an attack ad.