DeSantis vs. Newsom: The Great Debate of Liberty vs. Tyranny

by Tommy Grant

Last week, America watched as two of the most popular governors from two of the most populated states duked it out head-to-head on a nationally televised debate. As they defended their political stances, policies, and reasons for why each state is the role-model for our country, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and Governor Gavin Newsom of California exchanged heated remarks. Both DeSantis and Newsom claimed their state was the freest in the nation while arguing over childcare, parental rights, economic policies, crime, and of course, gun rights.

As Gun Owners of America’s national spokesman and Florida state director, this debate was especially important because I personally experience the result of Florida’s policies that were defended by DeSantis, and viciously attacked by Newsom. Additionally, I have family in California and hear directly about their lives under Newsom’s aggressive liberal policies in the Golden State. Right off the bat, Gov. Newsom attacked Gov. DeSantis’ for signing Florida’s permitless concealed-only carry bill into law in 2023 – claiming that it caused higher crime rates in Florida. 

Unsurprisingly, Newsom’s claim is patently false as crime rates have not risen in Florida because of the bill’s passage. Additionally, Gov. Newsom claimed that the bill allowed convicted felons to purchase and carry firearms – yet another bald face lie. Florida’s criminal statutes, specifically chapter 790 states that a convicted felon in Florida can’t legally possess, purchase, carry, or even touch a firearm. Additionally, federal law bars a convicted felon from legally purchasing or carrying a firearm as well. Gov. Newsom was simply doing what gun-grabbing anti-freedom politicians always do: lie in front of the American people to push their political narrative. His narrative is all about disarming law-abiding Americans and making them slaves to the state, all while criminals continue to target disarmed citizens.

While Gov. DeSantis and Gov. Newsom battled back and forth about their state’s crime statistics, the proof is in the pudding. Criminals are criminals because they break the law. No matter how many bans, restrictions, and laws are passed, criminals will still be criminals. I know that from my 15 years wearing the badge in Florida as a sworn officer of the law. Gun free zones, unconstitutional waiting periods, background checks, permitting schemes, carry bans, and age restrictions don’t stop criminals from committing crimes. The only thing gun control does is hurt the law-abiding from being able to protect and defend themselves. 


Murder, rape, burglary, arson, and theft are all crimes in and of themselves. Does your average criminal sit there and think to themselves: “Gee, mugging some woman walking to her car from the hair salon is a felony, maybe I shouldn’t do it.” No, they don’t think that. What does make them think is this: “It’s damn easy for folks to buy and carry guns. I don’t know if that woman walking to her car from the hair salon is packing. I’m going to try some place else; I don’t want to get shot.”

That’s the honest truth of the matter. You know it, I know it, and even both Gov. DeSantis and Gov. Newsom know it. The difference is, Gov. Newsom is an authoritarian despot holding office who loves China’s communist dictator Xi Jinping, and he simply just doesn’t care. Gov. Newsom has claimed he’s all for Californians being safe in his state, yet under his leadership, crime appears to be such a problem that stores are putting everything behind barricades, closing down, and people are scared to walk their own sidewalks while wearing jewelry for fear of being attacked and robbed.

California has a revolving-door criminal justice system in which violent offenders are cut loose and on the streets with a slap on the wrist, and law-abiding Californians are left defenseless. Californians must jump through numerous hoops to be able to legally purchase and carry a firearm – a system so convoluted and purposefully difficult to traverse that legally protecting yourself with a concealed handgun is next to impossible. And those who abide by the law and make it through California’s unconstitutional rigamarole then have the added problem of being criminally prosecuted for defending themselves in a self-defense situation, all while repeat violent felons are coddled by the criminal justice system and the police.  Now, Florida isn’t a perfect paradise for gun owners mind you. 

The Sunshine State still has a long way to go to become the “Gunshine State,” but armed Floridians are far better off than California on a number of issues. Florida doesn’t have a state gun registration scheme, a firearm or magazine bans, nor must we get a “firearm safety certificate” to simply buy a firearm. 

Nor does Florida willing go after concealed carry permit holders by handing over permit holder records to third-parties to dox the law-abiding. 

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Yet Florida does have a number of faults. The state still has an open carry ban in place along with banning adults under 21 from being able to legally purchase and carry a firearm. Florida also has mandatory waiting periods, too. All of these are things that California has, and the bad part is, Florida is the only Republican state to have such bans on the books. In fact, during the debate, moderator Sean Hannity showed where Florida and California rank in Everytown from Gun Safety’s list of the most anti-gun states in the country. California of course proudly wore the crown of being the worst, but Florida was ranked 19th out of 51 (Washington, D.C. was included).


Florida claims to be the freest state in the nation, but that would require us to be rated 50th and not 19th. But, Florida’s faults lie mostly at the hands of the Republican controlled Legislature, not the current Governor. Unlike Gov. Newsom, Gov. DeSantis has publicly stated he supports open carry and would have vetoed the gun control that passed in 2018 if he was governor then. That gun control unfortunately passed with the full support of Republican legislative leadership along with then Gov. Rick Scott’s and Pres. Donald Trump’s support. And it included and upheld an under 21 purchase/carry ban and a ban on open carry. The difference between Florida and California is while both are one-party supermajority-controlled states, Florida doesn’t have a governor who is in lockstep with the supermajority party’s goal on restricting the peoples’ rights unlike California. 

Gun Owners of America is of course fighting the hard fight in both states, and in the entire country. It was GOA who got Gov. DeSantis on record for his support of open carry, and it’s been GOA fighting the hard fight in California, too. GOA has been fighting Gov. Newsom and his ilk at every turn while taking on the Republican road-blockers in Florida as well. 

This debate was crucial because it showed the American public the difference between authoritarianism and freedom. It showed the results of what happens when a politician’s rhetoric becomes policy – and in Florida’s case, it is Floridians being able to legally defend themselves from violent criminals and not fear political persecution for it. In California’s case, it is revolving-door criminal justice system, and feces covered streets where defending yourself can result in being criminally charged. The policies of Florida vs California are clear: armed citizens save lives while authoritarian policies stripping law-abiding citizens of their God-given rights endanger innocent Americans and erode the freedoms we hold dear.

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