DeSantis picked the suburban gun store for the latest stop on his yet-to-be-announced presidential campaign, part of a media blitz that’s widely seen as a prelude to an official 2024 announcement expected within months.
Democrats, meanwhile, called on DeSantis to scrap the stop at a shop that bills itself as the “World’s Largest Gun Store” days after a deadly mass shooting at a private school in Nashville, Tennessee.
“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,” said U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, chair of the state Democratic Party.
And U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who represents a Gwinnett-based district, criticized DeSantis’ support for an expansion of gun rights.
“Gov. DeSantis talks a lot about law and order, so I ask the governor directly: What about allowing repeated massacres in our classrooms to continue is law and order?”
His visit to Cobb County highlights the transformation of a suburb that was once an important Republican stronghold that changed during Donald Trump’s presidency into a Democratic bastion. In 2020, Joe Biden carried the county by 14 points.
DeSantis has been ramping up his national appearances in recent weeks as he prepares a likely White House bid. He’s seen as the top threat to Trump, who launched his comeback tour months ago but has yet to return to Georgia.
Two other GOP candidates have also entered the contest: Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who held fundraisers in Atlanta earlier this month; and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
Although Trump remains the front-runner, dozens of elected officials and activists surveyed recently by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution say they’re reluctant to embrace his comeback bid and enthusiastic about an alternative.
Some say Trump is irrevocably tainted by the ongoing criminal and civil investigations into his actions during and after his presidency — particularly the Fulton County probe into whether he and his allies illegally sought to reverse his narrow 2020 defeat in Georgia.
With the election still more than a year away, DeSantis was the top alternative state GOP leaders mentioned in texts, emails and phone interviews over a two-week span. Others floated former Vice President Mike Pence and Haley.
Gov. Brian Kemp, who defeated a Trump-backed challenger last year, is among the mainstream GOP leaders who have welcomed the wide-open primary.
Kemp, who has also taken steps to factor into the 2024 conversation while ruling out his own candidacy, recently told the AJC he expects a contest “that showcases the successes of Republican governors and the work of other conservative leaders.”