The Tampa Bay Times reports the state's Agriculture Commissioner endorsed open carry and carrying firearms on college campuses at an appearance at the Florida National Guard Armory in Tallahassee. Both pieces of legislation were heavily pushed by conservative lawmakers and the National Rifle Association during last year's session, but their efforts were thwarted by moderate South Florida Republicans. Opponents, including the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, have long argued that these proposals actually endanger Floridians by adding more guns into the equation. Putnam says Florida has a track record of "law-abiding citizens" who follow the proper procedures to get their concealed-weapons permits.
"Continuing to expand their opportunities to exercise those 2nd Amendment rights is something I support," Putnam says, according to the Times. "I think that gun-free zones where the victims have no opportunity to defend themselves ought to be modified in a responsible way, so people can exercise their 2nd Amendment rights to protect themselves."
Putnam had already come under fire this week for lambasting gun reform advocates who protested the NRA in Tampa, according to the Times. "Classic progressive move. Desperate attempt to limit our 2nd Amendment rights," Putnam wrote on a link to a story about advocates protesting the NRA's controversial advertisement.
Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, a Democrat running for the governor's spot, weighed in on the controversy via Twitter.
Imagine how great our universities could be if politicians spent as much time talking about student achievement as they do arming students. https://t.co/qQjf4pZI17— Gwen Graham (@GwenGraham) July 18, 2017
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, another Democrat running for Florida governor, says in a statement that Putnam has shown he's on the side of the NRA.
"Their ad was despicable and we know what its true intentions are – to tear us apart and divide us," Gillum says. "But in a year after the Pulse Nightclub tragedy, and losing law enforcement officers in the line of duty in Orlando, we’ve stood together and become stronger. It’s a shameful day when someone who wants to lead our state stands behind such violent, divisive rhetoric, and against commonsense gun protections for Floridians."