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Florida Black Caucus criticizes DeSantis' response to racist shooting

Rep. Dianne Hart said she still hasn't heard from the governor in the days since a racist gunman claimed the lives of 3 Black people in Jacksonville.
Florida Black Caucus criticizes DeSantis' response to racist shooting
Posted at 1:12 PM, Aug 29, 2023

It's been three days since a racist mass shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, claimed the lives of three Black individuals.

Authorities said 52-year-old Angela Carr, 19-year-old Anolt Joseph "AJ" Laguerre Jr., and 29-year-old Jarrald De'Shaun Gallion lost their lives Saturday when a gunman opened fire inside a Dollar General store. Police said Carr was dropping off a friend when she was killed inside her vehicle. Laguerre Jr. was working at the store and Gallion was walking in when they were both gunned down.

SEE MORE: Jacksonville attack sparks examination of racially motivated shootings

Rep. Dianne Hart, who's the head of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, tells Scripps News that Gov. Ron DeSantis has still not called her in the wake of the attack, and she said quite frankly, she's not surprised.

"If you consider the fact that the governor is trying to stamp out my history, would you expect him to reach out to the Legislative Black Caucus Chair?" Hart questioned. "One of the people who have been outspoken as it relates to the fact that you don't want me to talk about my history?"

Hart was referring to changes to educational curriculum that is the latest in the ongoing dispute between DeSantis and Florida’s Black communities and educators. Last year, DeSantis signed the "Stop WOKE Act," a piece of legislation that restricts how race is discussed in schools and workplaces.

It prohibits instruction that could make people feel they "bear responsibility" for historic wrongdoings because of their race, sex or national origin. Then earlier this year, the education department rejected a pilot version of an AP African American Studies course, saying it lacked educational value.

SEE MORE: Deadly Racism: The Jacksonville Shooting

But it's not just the governor's stances on education that Hart takes issue with. It's also the widespread gun violence that comes amid DeSantis' pro-gun policies.

It’s becoming commonplace for Americans to experience gun-related violence, according to a new study by KFF. One in 5 American adults said they have been personally threatened with a gun. 

Almost the same amount say they have also had a family member killed by a gun, including by suicide. In addition, the Kaiser poll found gun violence disproportionately affects people of color, with about a third of Black adults having witnessed someone being shot.

"I would not expect for the governor to reach out to me [about these issues]. Especially me," Hart told Scripps News. "Maybe some Black legislators, he might reach out to. But he certainly — I don't anticipate him ever reaching out to me asking for my support or a vote."

The controversial moves by DeSantis also come on the heels of his attempt to earn the GOP presidential nomination. While DeSantis lags well behind former President Donald Trump in the polls, Hart said she had one message for DeSantis if he ever hopes to gain the widespread support needed to secure the nomination:

"I would say to our governor that he must put forth some serious gun legislation. Florida cannot be controlled by the gun lobbyists," Hart said. "That is not representing the 22 million plus people here in the state of Florida, when you cower to just a group of people. The governor must do something and he must do it now. If he expects to be president of these United States — and God forbid with the rhetoric he's putting forth — he is only waving the fire. He is waving these flames and he's actually making people more hateful. Just look at the bills we put forth this last legislative session. It tells you what we're doing here in Florida."

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