Florida governor Ron DeSantis has drafted a bill to expand the state's "stand your ground" laws, proposing that people be allowed to shoot "looters." As the Miami Herald reports, DeSantis' new "anti-mob" legislation sees him propose an expansion of the list of "forcible felonies" under Florida's self-defense law, including criminal mischief that causes any "interruption or impairment" of a business.
The draft explicitly mentions "rioters" and "looters," allowing citizens to use force against people who might be looting within 500 feet of a "violent or disorderly assembly." This could make protests especially dangerous in the state, where outside agitators have been known to incite violence and theft.
DeSantis' draft also proposes that it be made a third-degree felony to block traffic during a protest, and that drivers who "accidentally" kill or injure protesters be offered immunity. As Black Lives Matter protests this year have continued since the death of George Floyd back in May, there have been numerous accounts of drivers ploughing their cars into protesters.
Other sections of the draft include suggestions to increase penalties for anyone involved in "violent or disorderly assemblies," and threatening to withold funding from any local governments that cut police funding. Despite how Florida has seen mostly peaceful demonstrations, with very few incidents of violence or civil unrest, DeSantis has been threatening to introduce the "strongest pro-law enforcement, anti-rioting, anti-looting legislation anywhere in the country."
The draft version of the bill has not been filed to the House or the Senate, and many have expressed concern it might allow "vigilantes to justify their actions." Civil rights attorney Melba Pearson, for instance, said this could have an impact on free speech. Former Miami-Dade prosecutor Aubrey Webb suggested the draft wasn't specific enough and could result in preventable deaths.
"It dangerously gives armed private citizens power to kill as they subjectively determine what constitutes 'criminal mischief' that interferes with a business," Webb told the Miami Herald. "Someone graffiti-ing ‘Black Lives Matter’ on a wall? Urinating behind a dumpster? Blocking an entrance? ... The Boston Tea Party members would have been lawfully shot under Florida’s law by the British East India Tea Company."
The news comes as DeSantis has hired a COVID-19 conspiracy theorist, Kyle Lamb, at the state's Office of Policy and Budget. Miami Herald reports that Lamb has even admitted that he's "not an 'expert'" or a doctor, and that he suggested that "experts don't have all the answers." Prior to taking the role, which pays $40,000 a year, Lamb was a sports writer. Various people aware of his work have called him "unhinged" and "a crackpot."
DeSantis, meanwhile, has continued to downplay the impact of the coronavirus.