Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis traveled to Cobb County, Georgia, on Thursday to visit a popular gun store as part of his ongoing book tour ahead of what is expected to be a presidential campaign announcement this summer.
The previously scheduled trip happened to come days after a shooter killed six people at a private school in Nashville, Tennessee, which Georgia Democrats noted in criticizing DeSantis, who is seen as a rising Republican star after easily winning reelection in November.
The governor is continuing a tour pegged to his new memoir and promoting what he calls Florida's "blueprint" for the rest of the country, believing it can serve as a model for governing and politics nationwide.
The gun store in suburban Atlanta, Adventure Outdoors, has been a campaign stop for other Republicans, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Herschel Walker, who unsuccessfully sought to unseat Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock last year.
Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and three other local lawmakers went to Adventure Outdoors earlier this week to criticize what the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reportedly called a routine, random inspection. Greene claimed it was "unusual and unnecessary."
"I'm proud to be able to stand here and say we support our Second Amendment rights in this country," DeSantis said Thursday to the crowd gathered at Adventure Outdoors.
DeSantis told the crowd that he plans to sign into law next week a bill that the Florida Senate passed Thursday to allow people to carry a firearm in the state without a permit.
The rest of DeSantis' hour-long remarks were similar to previous remarks he's been making on his tour: He talked about the southern border, policing and crime, gender-affirming care for minors and the dangers of fentanyl.
He also briefly remarked on his administration's ongoing conflict with Disney, which had for years essentially overseen a small, autonomous region encompassing the company's theme parks outside Orlando -- until lawmakers stepped in in the wake of Disney criticizing a Florida law restricting school instruction on gender and sexual orientation. (Disney also owns ABC News.)
"The fact is, Disney had had their own government that they controlled in the state of Florida for decades and they basically got everything they wanted for many decades they've been operating in Florida until now, because now there's a new sheriff in town," DeSantis said.
Democrats in Georgia had called out DeSantis for holding an event at the gun store in the wake of the Nashville shooting and have said he should cancel the event.
"Holding a campaign event at a gun store days after another horrific school shooting where innocent children were murdered should be beyond the pale, but Ron DeSantis seems to not care," Rep. Nikema Williams, the Democrats' state chair, said in a statement on Tuesday. "DeSantis is showing Georgians exactly where his priorities lie as he advocates for an extreme MAGA agenda that could make it easier for criminals to carry guns in Florida and puts the gun lobby ahead of our children's lives. DeSantis should cancel this event immediately."
A spokesperson for DeSantis did not respond to a request for comment on his visit.
He has called the Nashville shooting "senseless" and directed flags flown at half-staff in Florida in light of President Joe Biden's declaration ordering the same.
DeSantis' stop in Georgia adds to the list of his appearances in battleground and early nominating states ahead of his widely expected announcement that he'll run for president in 2024.
In April, he's scheduled to go to Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
After his trip to Georgia, DeSantis was initially set to travel to Franklin, Tennessee, on Monday, where he would meet with Gov. Bill Lee. However, that event has now been postponed, according to Eventbrite, where it was being advertised.
In Florida, as DeSantis noted Thursday, lawmakers have taken up new gun-related legislation: Republicans are working to enact a law allowing people to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, with exceptions such as on school property.
It would make Florida the 26th state in the country with a permitless carry law.