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12 Nov, 2020 12:47

As Florida plans green light for store owners to shoot looters, gunfights at high noon may become the new American reality

As Florida plans green light for store owners to shoot looters, gunfights at high noon may become the new American reality

With tensions soaring amid a spate of police incidents involving African Americans, the state of Florida is considering allowing business owners to shoot looters on site. Is this the law the US needs to end mob violence?

Happily, America’s Sunshine State has largely escaped the wanton violence and destruction that has greeted others amid a nationwide wave of protests over police brutality. But Governor Ron DeSantis doesn’t seem to be taking any chances, empowering the average citizen to behave like the local sheriff. What could possibly go wrong?

The Republican leader drafted tough ‘anti-mob’ legislation that would give Florida business owners the right to use force against looters participating in “violent or disorderly assemblies.” The proposal highlights the deep chasm that now separates Republicans and Democrats over the question of personal security and gun rights at a time when plans to defund police departments are on the drawing board.

The nation got a shock in May after George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American, died under the knee of a white cop during an attempted arrest. The ensuing outbreak of arson, vandalism and looting across the country cost an estimated $1-2 billion, representing the most expensive price tag from civil strife in US history. Meanwhile, many looted and torched small businesses, already on the verge of bankruptcy due to an economic lockdown from Covid-19, were forever consigned to the graveyard.

To put a face on the tragedy, consider the story of Linda Carpenter and her son Scott who fought back tears as they surveyed the charred remains of B & L Office Furniture, a family business they had spent the last 40 years building. In late August, their store in Kenosha, Wisconsin was one of many looted and burned down after local police shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old African-American who reportedly resisted arrest. The Carpenters were not guilty of any crime, yet overnight a lifetime of work and dedication to their business was senselessly destroyed.

Although many businesses have ‘mob insurance’ to cover any damages sustained by looting, theft and vandalism, these same businesses typically do not qualify for coverage from a pandemic. Thus, being forced to rebuild a business in a climate of tremendous economic uncertainty will seem like mission impossible for many. Thus, it may actually come down to a question of sheer survival – keeping food on the table for a family – to protect one’s business from literal destruction.

Not so long ago, Americans could rest assured that the police would protect them and their businesses in times of crisis. Today, no American can take their personal security for granted, and the massive spike in gun sales in the last year is a reflection of that uncertainty. Gun-loving Republicans have been watching in alarm as liberal-run cities and states enact measures that hamper the police from doing their jobs, at the very same time their neighborhoods are going up in flames.

In September, for example, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler ordered local police to stop using tear gas at protesters during demonstrations. The order came after the city had experienced 105 straight days of protest, many of them violent in nature. Oregon State Police called Wheeler’s decision “reckless and short sighted,” and threatened to stop sending troopers to help Portland cops deal with the demonstrations.

At the same time, liberals are displaying camaraderie with the looters and vandals, as witnessed by Hollywood celebrities who happily post the criminals’ bail and return them to the streets. One Black Lives Matter organizer compared looting that broke out in Chicago to “reparations” that are “owed” to black people as payment for the slavery years. But perhaps the last straw for Republicans came when Mark and Patricia McCloskey responded to protesters trespassing on their property in an upscale St. Louis neighborhood by brandishing firearms. In a decision that infuriated conservatives, the local court charged the McCloskeys with a felony count for the “unlawful use of a weapon.”

Clearly, a precedent is being set, at least in the Democrat-run states, that the average citizen has almost no rights when it comes to protecting himself from criminals. That is not the best message to be sending, especially when these same Democrat states are having serious discussions about defunding and even demobilizing their police departments. And as Joe Biden looks set to be the next president, with Kamala Harris and the progressives in the shadows, these lawless tendencies promise to continue.

At first glance, Florida’s proposal to let business owners resort to deadly force against would-be looters and arsonists seems a bit over-the-top. After all, is it justifiable for any person to lose their life for the crime of stealing a widescreen TV or a pair of sneakers? Governor DeSantis is probably hoping that his legislation will work more as a deterrent to crime than creating dangerous conditions for his people. In other words, if members of the mob understand that business owners are within their legal rights to protect their premises with a gun, then they may think twice before carrying out their illicit activities.

The ideal solution, of course, would be for the police to handle such situations as they arise. However, given that these servants of the public are rarely on the scene of a crime when it happens (otherwise it probably wouldn’t happen in the first place), who better to protect a business from theft and destruction than the owner himself? So long as the owner is a responsible gun owner, his or her mere presence may go far toward deterring crime. It is even possible to imagine a ‘confederation’ of armed store owners working together to protect their businesses in times of crisis – something like an armed version of the ‘Guardian Angels’ – that would serve as a powerful message to any would-be criminals looking for some vulnerable store to loot and torch.

It also does not require much imagination, however, for that scenario to end in disaster as one side begins to seek retribution for the death or injury of one of its own. A bit like mafia groups, nobody would want to leave their home without being armed to the teeth and in a group. In other words, the conditions would be set for the US to return to a ‘Wild West’ scenario where people openly carried firearms and resolved issues by whoever had the ‘fastest draw’. Probably not the most comforting image for a modern democracy, but it is getting difficult to imagine any other.

In the final analysis, it looks as though the liberals have swung too hard left, alienating entire police departments for the crimes of a few. At the same time, the Republicans seem to be overcorrecting the situation, enabling business owners to behave as judge, jury and executioner for petty theft. Neither one of these solutions sounds favorable; best for the American people to place their trust in their police, the majority of whom have the best intentions at heart, while making sure these servants of the people are properly trained to handle any and all situations that may occur on the job.  

Otherwise, America is truly heading back to the future of the Wild West.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.