Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has reportedly drafted “anti-mob” legislation that would expand the state’s Stand Your Ground law to allow armed citizens defend themselves against violent rioters and looters.
Written after violent rioters caused billions of dollars of damage to America’s cities over the summer, the proposal would expand the list of under Florida’s self-defense law to justify the use of force against rioters who engage in looting or arson that “results in the interruption or impairment of a business operation.”
“The draft legislation put specifics behind DeSantis’ pledge in September to crack down on ‘violent and disorderly assemblies,’” the Tampa Bay Times reported. “Other key elements of DeSantis’ proposal would enhance criminal penalties for people involved in ‘violent or disorderly assemblies,’ make it a third-degree felony to block traffic during a protest, offer immunity to drivers who claim to have unintentionally killed or injured protesters who block traffic, and withhold state funds from local governments that cut law enforcement budgets.”
The draft, obtained by the Miami Herald, has not yet been filed as an official bill in the Florida House or Senate.
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law “eliminated the duty of a person to retreat before using force to counter a threat — which critics say fosters a Wild West shoot-first, ask-questions-later mentality,” the Miami Herald reported. “It also gave judges more leeway to grant ‘immunity’ to someone they believed acted in self-defense before ever letting a case get to the jury.”
“In 2017, Florida lawmakers changed the law, forcing prosecutors to shoulder the burden of disproving a defendant’s claims of self-defense,” the paper added. “Prosecutors must prove by ‘clear and convincing’ evidence that someone was not acting in self-defense.”
While many conservatives praised the idea, not everyone was thrilled.
“It allows for vigilantes to justify their actions,” former Miami-Dade County prosecutor Denise Georges said. “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.”
“What’s interesting to see is Gov. Ron DeSantis has so much time on his hands that he can craft legislation to address an imaginary issue in the state of Florida,” state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) said. “We don’t have a crisis with riots or with looters. What we do have is millions of Floridians pushed into poverty and unemployment as a result of the economic consequences of coronavirus.”