A Florida official is standing by his critical remarks about last weekend’s anti-gun march and the students who organized it.
“What you may call blunt and some of the downtown pundits may call blunt, folks out here on the west side (of Escambia County), we just call it the truth,” Doug Underhill, an Escambia County commissioner, told The Pensacola News Journal.
Underhill took to Facebook last week, unloading his opposition to the marches that took place across the nation on Saturday.
“You are wrong. My gun is not your problem, and my rights are not your business,” Underhill wrote. “Your fears and your hate are a very real danger to our Constitution. You are literally spending your Saturday demanding the government take away your rights. Pathetic.”
The commissioner and 27 year veteran of the US Navy blamed “the socialist experiment of this radically leftist south Florida town that created the monster that did this AND the little monsters who are parading around pointing the finger at people like me,” in another Facebook comment responding to NewsRadio 1620 host Andrew McKay.
“These little miscreants are not reacting to the event: They are prostituting the deaths of their classmates to drive an agenda,” he wrote.
Despite some negative reactions, Underhill said his district’s response has been overwhelmingly positive to his remarks.
“I know that people would maybe prefer that you’re supposed to use softer words and things like that,” Underhill told the News Journal on Wednesday. “If you’re coming after the constitutional rights of Americans, it’s probably not going to be soft words.”
Underhill, who was elected in 2014, believes the majority of Escambia County residents did not agree with the March For Our Lives protests.
“If you’re going to wade into those waters, you have to understand that this is an adult conversation, and I represent the west side,” he said. “The west side is a very patriotic community. We are a very constitutional community, and many of my constituents raised their right hand and took the same oath that I did — to protect and defend the Constitution. The Second Amendment is a critical part of the Constitution, so if they want to come into town and start talking about taking away rights, they have to understand that people on the west side will speak up.”
Underhill unflinchingly called out the students and activists who have been using the Parkland tragedy to further an anti-gun agenda.
“There’s the tragedy of the loss of life, and there’s another tragedy that follows after that, is we’re engaging in the same circular dialogue that happened after the last mass shooting and nothing is going to change because you will not change the Second Amendment,” he told the News Journal. “What we really need to start talking about is why have we let our society devalue life and devalue respect for our neighbors in such a way that it’s OK for a 17-year-old boy with no life experiences to stand up and say literally ‘F the NRA.'”
Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz did not agree with Underhill’s choice of words to describe the students.
“I don’t hold those views,” the Republican lawmaker said. “I think that young people should be encouraged to engage even if we disagree with the conclusions that they draw. I’m not an advocate for gun control. I’m a Second Amendment advocate, but I think it’s good thing when young people want to be involved.”
But Underhill maintained his stand.
“They have chosen to make it this kind of a fight,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be, and in fact we need to grow and evolve beyond this and really start talking about why we have devalued human life in our society to the point that we can have this kind of thing take place.”