Florida’s Republican governor warned anyone planning to take advantage of Wednesday’s landfall of Hurricane Idalia—which hit the state’s Big Bend and then headed north and eventually into Georgia—not to risk armed Floridians defending their families and property.
“I told all the personnel at the state level: ‘You protect people’s property,’ and we are not going to tolerate any looters in the aftermath of a natural disaster,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press briefing on the hurricane recovery held today in Perry.
DeSantis said he was told by the Taylor County sheriff that there were reports of looting in the coastal town of Steinhatchee, which took the storm head-on—and he was shocked that individuals see the hurricane as an opportunity for crime.
I mean, it is just ridiculous that you would do something like that on the heels of an almost Category 4 hurricane hitting this community.
I also want to remind potential looters: ‘You never know what you are walking into.
People have a right to defend their property. This part of Florida, you got a lot of advocates and proponents of the Second Amendment.
I’ve seen signs in different people’s yards in the past after these disasters, and I would say probably here: ‘You loot. We shoot.’
The governor warned potential looters what could be waiting for them in a state that respects gun rights.
“You never know what’s behind that door if you break into somebody’s house and you’re trying to loot—these are people who are going to be able to defend themselves and their families,” he said.
“I would not do it. We are going to hold you accountable from the law enforcement perspective at a minimum, and it could be even worse than that depending on what’s behind that door,” he said.
“Let’s all band together and lift people up and not try to take advantage of a difficult situation,” he said.
The governor paused his presidential campaign to lead Florida’s response to Idalia. His wife Casey was not with him, but the Sunshine State’s first lady shared a photo of a tree that fell on the governor’s mansion on social media.
100 year old oak tree falls on the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee — Mason, Madison, Mamie and I were home at the time, but thankfully no one was injured.
Our prayers are with everyone impacted by the storm. pic.twitter.com/l6MOE8wNMC
— Casey DeSantis (@CaseyDeSantis) August 30, 2023
The eye of the hurricane made landfall at or around 8 a.m., roughly 20 miles south of Perry, traveling at 18 miles per hour with 120 miles per hour winds.
The governor spoke with his administration members and a group of members of the Florida Guard, a state-based civil defense force DeSantis relaunched in 2022 to bolster the state’s humanitarian and natural disaster emergency response.
DeSantis’ remarks echo his comments 11 months ago while he was touring the state’s recovery effort after Hurricane Ian.
“In the state of Florida. You never know what may be lurking behind somebody’s door, and I would not want to chance that if I were you–given that we’re a Second Amendment state,” he said.
“Very clear that in situations like this, we’re not going to let bad actors exploit them. That means law and order will be enforced,” he said. “That means individual Floridians’ right to defend themselves and their homes will be honored.”
The governor was responding to reports that four looters were arrested in Lee County, and three were illegal aliens.
DeSantis said they should be deported after they pay their debt to society.
“They should be prosecuted, but they need to be sent back to their home country. They should not be here at all.”