MIAMI — Gov. Ron DeSantis offered state resources to local police officers following a shooting in Tampa Saturday night that left two dead and almost 20 people wounded.
The Tampa shooting, which sparked criticism from state Democrats over Florida’s less-restrictive gun laws, comes just days after a 40-year-old gunman killed 18 people in Lewiston, Maine, in the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. in 2023.
Authorities said a feud between two groups escalated Saturday night into a shooting in the Ybor City area of Tampa, which is a hub for Halloween festivities. The assailants opened fire right as crowds of people had poured into the streets from bars and clubs that had just closed for the night, Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw said during a Sunday morning press conference. Two died and 18 were injured, though some of the injuries may have been caused by stampeding when people fled, Bercaw said. A local news station reported that a 14-year-old boy was among those killed.
In the aftermath of the Maine shooting, DeSantis, who is running for president, said more people with serious mental health issues should be institutionalized against their will as a way to prevent mass shootings. Police discovered the gunman dead on Saturday, and numerous news reports say that he had been hearing voices and was institutionalized this summer.
“I do think that we tend to pass the buck with some of these people and just kind of hope that they don’t do anything wrong when there’s a lot of signs,” DeSantis said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I would be more aggressive on some of those fringe people who clearly are demonstrating signs that they’re a major danger to society.”
As governor, DeSantis has generally opposed proposals seeking to restrict access to guns. Last year, he signed into law legislation allowing people in Florida to carry guns without a permit.
Top Democrats in the state blamed too-permissive firearms laws in Florida for Saturday’s shooting. “Bad decisions made in a split second and the proliferation of readily available guns are responsible for these almost daily incidents,” Tampa’s Democratic Mayor, Jane Castor, said on X. “We can affect one half of this equation.”
Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried called on Congress to pass “responsible gun laws” and Florida Rep. Lindsay Cross (D-St. Petersburg) said, “We need to stop tolerating violence like this.”
Florida has experienced some of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings, including the 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead and another 53 wounded, and the 2018 Parkland high school shooting that killed 17 people, including many high school students. And in August, a 21-year-old man killed three people in a racially-motivated shooting in Jacksonville, Fla.