Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was in the midst of an interview with conservative commentator Dave Rubin last Thursday when progressive activist and congressional candidate Maxwell Alejandro Frost approached the stage.
“I came to him as a human being, not as a Democrat,” Frost told Yahoo News over the weekend.
A camera following Frost records him shouting at DeSantis, pleading with the ambitious Republican — widely expected to seek the presidency in 2024 — to impose stricter gun control measures.
I just asked @GovRonDeSantis to take action on gun violence so we can save lives. That we lose 100 people a day.
His response? “Nobody wants to hear from you!” We are dying and our Governor is too busy helping @RubinReport make money. pic.twitter.com/LUOWQq3kQU
— Maxwell Alejandro Frost (@MaxwellFrostFL) June 3, 2022
“Governor DeSantis, we are losing 100 people a day due to gun violence,” Frost shouts, now standing flush against the stage at the Plaza Live venue in Orlando. DeSantis looks his way, appearing irritated.
“Nobody wants to hear from you,” he says as security drags Frost away.
As the guards do so, Frost shouts at DeSantis: “Floridians are dying!”
The moment went viral, as have other recent confrontations between Republican elected officials and progressives angered by inaction at seemingly every level of government on gun control. Frost says that he was forced to disrupt the Rubin interview because, as DeSantis’s popularity in right-wing circles has risen, he has become increasingly unavailable to ordinary Floridians concerned with his plans for the state.
“There’s never an opportunity for us to engage him,” Frost says. Now 25 years old, he was raised like others in his generation at a time when lockdown drills are routine in schools; he is acutely skeptical of official responses long on thoughts and prayers but short on policy solutions.
“We know what the cycle looks like,” he told Yahoo News, arguing that DeSantis is “not protecting Floridians.”
DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw declined to comment for this story.
Frustration with inaction has surged in recent weeks, with several high profile mass shootings in the news. Conservatives have said that unaddressed mental health crises are to blame. According to liberals, the ease with which guns can be purchased is the true culprit.
The day after a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at a school in Uvalde, Texas, Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke confronted the state’s sitting Republican governor, Greg Abbott, at a press conference.
Like most other Republicans, Abbott has been firmly on the side of gun advocates; a year before the Uvalde shooting, he signed seven new bills expanding gun rights, including one that makes Texas a “sanctuary” against new federal restrictions. “Texas will always be the leader in defending the Second Amendment, which is why we built a barrier around gun rights this session,” Abbott said at the time.
Two days after the Uvalde press conference, an activist confronted Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at an upscale Houston restaurant, telling Cruz that “death’s on his hands” for his consistent refusal to back background checks and other measures.
Support of the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation are critical for Republicans seeking a higher profile — or the presidency.
Just days before the Uvalde shooting, DeSantis promised to enact permitless carry in Florida. Though popular with pro-gun activists, dropping permitting requirements to carry weapons in public has been shown to make states that enact such measures less safe.
“I can’t tell you if it’s going to be next week, six months, but I can tell you before I am done as governor, we will have a signature on that bill,” DeSantis said.
After the shooting, DeSantis stayed quiet. His office declined repeated requests to comment on whether he still supported the permitless carry proposal. But he reportedly moved to cancel $35 million in funding for a new Tampa Bay Rays training facility after a Twitter account for the professional baseball team posted statistics about gun violence.
“He hasn’t said a single word about gun violence since the shooting in Texas,” says Frost, who became a gun control activist after the fatal shooting of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. He is now seeking to represent Florida’s 10th congressional district, which includes Orlando and its suburbs, in Congress. The seat is currently held by Rep. Val Demings, who is running for the U.S. Senate against Marco Rubio, a Republican.
Should he win the general election in November, Frost would be the first member of Gen Z in the House of Representatives.
Frost says that in the end, he sought to make a visceral appeal that transcended whatever political disagreements he and DeSantis may have.
“Be human. Love humanity. And do your job.”