Hurricane Idalia delivered a punch to Florida residents this week, with high winds leaving more than 140,000 people without power, damage to homes and businesses, and a lengthy cleanup for those hit hardest by the storm, which was a Category 3 when it roared ashore.
Now that residents don’t have to worry about the rain, wind, and storm surge, there’s another concern for the folks in the areas with the most damage: looters, trespassers, and burglars scouting for an easy opportunity to walk away with other people’s property. Speaking to reporters in Perry, Florida on Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis had a word of warning for those folks: you do so at your own risk.
“I’ve seen signs in different people’s yards in the past after these disasters, and I would say it’s probably here: ‘you loot, we shoot,’” he said during a press conference in Perry. “You never know what’s behind that door if you go break into somebody’s house.”
“These are people that are going to be able to defend themselves,” he continued.
DeSantis added that many people in this area of the state are supporters of gun rights, noting that trespassers will be held accountable.
“People have a right to defend their property,” he said. “This part of Florida, you got a lot of advocates and proponents of the Second Amendment.”
This is not the first time DeSantis has warned pillagers they could be shot. Last year, following the passage of deadly Hurricane Ian, the governor referenced the “You loot, we shoot” signs he saw outside some businesses in Punta Garda, adding that Florida is a “law and order state.”
“I would not want to chance that if I were you, given that we’re a Second Amendment state,” DeSantis said at the time.
While the left is clutching its collective pearls over DeSantis’s warning to would-be looters, he’s absolutely right. There are a lot of Floridians who own firearms and are prepared to protect themselves, their family, and their property if strangers show up on their doorstep looking to cash in on the natural disaster by taking what doesn’t belong to them.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody had a similar warning for those trying to take advantage of residents in the aftermath of Idalia, though she spoke about prosecuting price gougers as well as cautioning looters that they’ll face the long arm of the law.
“One thing that we hear from folks, ‘We want to adhere to the warnings, but we’re concerned that our property may be in jeopardy if we’re not there,’ and that will not be a concern in Florida,” Moody said. “We are a law and order state. We will not take it lightly if folks are looting.”
“We want everyone to be in this together to think of each other to help support one another. We do need to be aware that in times of emergency, in these challenging times, there are bad actors – from those seeking to make a profit off of essential commodities, to those that are waiting in the aftermath to where property is abandoned, and neither will be tolerated,” Moody said. “I’m so grateful to work with a governor who is very strong on this and making sure that people understand this is a state that will enforce the law and people should be aware.”
So far anyway, looting doesn’t appear to be happening, at least on a widespread basis. I don’t know if that’s because the criminally minded have heeded DeSantis’s warning or there simply hasn’t been much of an opportunity to engage in that kind of lawlessness, but whatever the reason let’s hope that remains the case. If not, those looters can’t say they weren’t warned when residents are willing and able to fight back.