Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has a draft for a piece of legislation that, depending on whom you ask, is a strengthening of the “Stand Your Ground” law or a solution still looking for a problem.
DeSantis’ “anti-mob” bill would allow armed citizens to defend themselves against violent rioters and looters, according to the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times. Inspired by and conceived after the riots this spring and summer, the proposal would now justify the use of force against rioters under Florida’s self-defense law, with the definition of “rioting” as an action that “results in the interruption or impairment of a business operation.”
The Stand Your Ground legislation, adopted in 2005, states in part “a person is justified in using, or threatening to use, deadly force” if they believe that act will prevent imminent injury or death.
Opponents of the legislation say it’s unnecessary. Armed citizens would be able to shoot suspected looters or anyone engaged in “criminal mischief” that disrupts a business. “It allows for vigilantes to justify their actions,” Denise Georges, a former Miami-Dade County prosecutor, told the Herald. “It also allows for death to be the punishment for a property crime—and that is cruel and unusual punishment.” Georges has handled prior Stand Your Ground cases.
The Herald and Times wrote: “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 more.
As of Tuesday, it’s only a draft. No bills have been filed in either the House or Senate, and no legislators have publicly backed the proposal. The 2021 legislative session begins March 2.