Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has drafted “anti-mob” legislation which would allow residents of the Sunshine State to shoot looters.
The act: The Combating Violence, Disorder, and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act would expand Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, according to the Miami Herald, which cited a copy of the legislation.
- The state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, first passed in 2005, removed a person’s legal obligation to retreat before using force in a confrontation.
What does it do exactly? The “anti-mob” bill would expand the law, adding several provisions aimed at curbing rioting and associated mayhem.
- Looting: Looting would be added to the list of Stand Your Grand “forcible felonies,” which justify victims to use force – even armed and deadly force – in self-defense.
- Unlawful assembly and rioting: The act contains several provisions aimed at clarifying and punishing mischievous group activities – Anyone in a group of seven or more who threatens property, person or law enforcement could face third-degree felony charges.
- Property damage: Under DeSantis’ bill, anyone who, “while participating in a violent or disorderly assembly,” damages public property could be charged with a felony.
- Don’t defund the police: Municipalities that make “disproportionate” cuts to police budgets would be barred from receiving state funds.
The bill also contains provisions aimed at increasing penalties for all varieties of assault and battery committed against police officers and would make blocking a public road as part of a demonstration without an assembly permit a first degree misdemeanor.
The backdrop: Following the May 25 death of George Floyd and the sometimes violent racial justice protests that broke out in response, many Americans, especially conservatives, have started to worry about widespread civil unrest in major urban centers.
- A Pew Research Center poll published in August found that violent crime had become a top issue for American voters.
- President Donald Trump has repeatedly accused Democrats of failing to maintain order in U.S. cities and suggested putative president-elect Joe Biden is not up to the task of controlling the unrest, saying, ‘If you elected this guy, the suburbs would be overwhelmed with violence and crime.”
- Biden, for his part, has pushed back on this message, condemning the riots and suggesting Trump himself is responsible.
DeSantis has staked out a strong law and order stance, announcing that he would propose increased anti-rioting measures in September.
- “We’re not going to let Florida go down the road that some of these other places have gone,” DeSantis said at a September 21 press conference.
Backlash: Critics of the bill say it will encourage violence by putting law enforcement in the hands of private citizens.
- Denise Georges, a former Miami-Dade County prosecutor, told the Herald, “It allows for vigilantes to justify their actions. It also allows for death to be the punishment for a property crime — and that is cruel and unusual punishment. We cannot live in a lawless society where taking a life is done so casually and recklessly.”
- Aubrey Webb, another former Miami-Dade County prosecutor, said, “The Boston Tea Party members would have been lawfully shot under Florida’s law by the British East India Tea Company.”