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Rep. Val Demmings, D-Fla., speaks to supporters as her husband, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demmings, left, listens during an election night gathering of family and friends after winning the race for Florida’s 10th congressional district Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

By Larry Keane

U.S. Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) made public what had been expected and announced a challenge to Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio ahead of the 2022 elections.

The very first question at the very first debate needs to be this: “Has your stolen service weapon been found? Can you say with certainty your stolen service weapon has not been used in a crime, or worse to injure someone?”

Given her law enforcement background, the pending nomination of gun control lobbyist and activist David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the current surge in criminal firearm violence, the question demands an answer.

With the Senate deadlocked at 50-50 and antigun legislation being debated in both chambers, flipping a Senate seat for gun control means severe consequences on law-abiding gun owners, Second Amendment supporters and the entire firearm industry.

The History

Rep. Demings has served in Congress since 2016 and has a long record of supporting strict gun control and receiving endorsements from major gun control groups along the way. Before Congress, her career was with the Orlando Police Department. She started there in 1983, rising to become Chief of Orlando Police in 2007, and retiring in 2011.

It was in 2009 when then-Chief Demings made news. Not good news.

Using the excuse that she was expecting visiting family guests with young children in her home, Rep. Demings placed her OPD service firearm in a duffle bag and left it out in her vehicle. Apparently neither Rep. Demings, nor her sheriff husband, believed in the effectiveness of safe and secure home firearm storage as is emphasized by the firearm industry.

Overnight, the car was broken into and the firearm was stolen. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the theft wasn’t made public until weeks afterward when a tipster alerted media. Rep. Demings was consequently censured and additional reporting shows the firearm has never been recovered.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

Rep. Demings tried to use her gun control bona fides to vault into higher office once before. She was a contestant in President Joe Biden’s Veepstakes pageant led by Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action, which is part of anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety gun control group. The virtual town hall events were viewed as auditions for prospective vice presidential candidates.

During her audition, Rep. Demings touted a congressional hearing on gun control and described how she proclaimed to a witness, “I’ve enforced the laws. And now I write the laws!” She continued, “And believe me it makes such a difference to understand, to have seen up close and personal what some of the vulnerabilities were or some of the loopholes were in the laws during the time I enforced the laws.”

President Joe Biden wasn’t impressed and passed on Rep. Demings, choosing then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) instead.

The Stakes Ahead

Now Rep. Demings is hoping to bring that personal experience to the upper chamber by replacing Sen. Rubio. The contrast couldn’t be more obvious. Sen. Rubio co-sponsored S. 1522, the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, and scored an A+ on NSSF’s 2020 Senate Report Card. Rep.

Val Demings
Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Demings is an ardent gun control advocate, who earned an “F” from NSSF on the same report card. To boost her support from antigun groups eyeing the race she recently introduced a package of gun control laws, including closing non-existent “gun show” loopholes, regulating so-called “ghost guns,” restricting lawful firearms already included under the National Firearms Act and more.

Rep. Demings has also made it clear she supports President Biden’s executive actions on gun control announced earlier this year saying, “President Biden’s orders are measured, evidence-based, and carefully targeted. They will crackdown on gun trafficking, ghost guns, and gun modifications…They will help local law enforcement remove guns from volatile situations before violence can erupt. Simply put, they will save lives.”

Those orders include banning the most popular selling semiautomatic rifle being purchased by law-abiding Americans today, promoting “red flag” laws that deny citizens Due Process, closing so-called loopholes (numerous fact-checkers flagged the president’s claims as false) and nominating the antigun lobbyist and activist David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

If Rep. Demings were today Sen. Demings, she could cast her vote that would confirm Chipman’s pending nomination.

The 2022 elections will include several hotly contested races. With Vice President Kamala Harris casting any tie-breaking votes, Republicans need only to gain one net seat to win back control. Second Amendment supporters will be closely watching key races, but Rep. Demings challenging Sen. Rubio in the Sunshine State is one that could have an outsized impact on the rights of lawful gun owners for years to come.

 

Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

 


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