During a campaign trip to South Carolina, Donald Trump took some time to visit the gun store that sold weapons to the racist Jacksonville, Florida, mass shooter.
Trump visited Palmetto State Armory on Monday, where he admired a handgun engraved and decorated in his honor. He repeatedly said he wanted to buy a gun there—which would be a violation of federal law given his many indictments.
A lot of the media has focused on whether Trump actually purchased a gun and violated the law, but less attention has been paid to Trump’s decision to visit Palmetto State Armory, as opposed to any other gun store in South Carolina.
In late August, a white man opened fire in a Dollar General store in a predominantly Black Jacksonville neighborhood, killing three people, all of whom were Black. The shooter, who then killed himself, used a Glock handgun and an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, at least one of which was painted with a swastika. Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said the shooter “hated Black people” and acted alone.
At least one of the guns came from Palmetto State Armory, a store in Summerville, South Carolina. The Jacksonville sheriff’s office shared photos of the firearms used in the attack on its Facebook page. One of the guns is clearly engraved with the Palmetto State Armory logo. The shooter had also drawn swastikas on the gun.
When the Jacksonville shooting happened, Trump did not issue any statement on the tragedy. But you could argue that this campaign stop is a kind of tacit statement. He put the spotlight on Palmetto State Armory, praised its inventory, and tried to offer it business.
Palmetto State Armory has openly embraced far-right ideology. In 2020, it began marketing its products using imagery and language associated with the “boogaloo,” slang for racist violence and even a call for full-on race war. It has also come to mean war to topple the government.
The Jacksonville shooter shouldn’t have been able to buy the guns in the first place. He was held in Florida state custody in 2017 for mental health issues, disqualifying him from owning a gun under a statute called the Baker Act.
With so many eyeballs on Trump, Palmetto State Armory would never have gotten away with selling him a gun. But as Philadephia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch pointed out, the store “could sell an AR-15 to a young, mentally troubled white supremacist.”