Hurricane Irma special coverage: Emergency CCW rights, how not to handle looters

Lee’s note: This is the first installment of our Hurricane Irma special coverage.  As this now-Category 5 beast bears down on the Gunshine State, we will have stories on emergency kits, safeguarding your firearms, personal security and much, much more.

I sympathize with folks whose neighborhoods have been damaged by a hurricane.

The occasional “You loot, we shoot” signs are an expression of their loss, as well as a dash of bravado. Truth be known, they likely provide a bit of deterrence to potential looters.

But make no mistake, neither a state of emergency nor a martial law declaration change the basic premise governing the use of deadly force: Deadly force may only be used in the defense of your life or the life of another.

Legally, looting is a property crime, usually charged as burglary or theft.  Neither crime merits the use of deadly force. There’s no statute that allows a victim to shoot someone over their “stuff.”

Florida Emergency Concealed-Carry Statute

One tool Florida politicians have given evacuees is the state “emergency-carry law,” which is also known as the “Hurricane gun law.”

The statute, which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2015, allows law-abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms — regardless of whether they have a Florida Concealed Weapon Firearm License — during a declared mandatory evacuation during a state of emergency.

The law allows for a two-day/48-hour period, but Gov. Scott can extend this window if needed.

To be clear, if you’re ordered to leave your home and you’re packing up your car with your family, pets and valuables, you can and should bring a firearm.

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

12 Comments

  1. Texas is maybe the only state where you are allowed to use deadly force to defend property. Here in Florida you can only watch them drive your car away, but, if they force their way into your home, it’s game on.

  2. 776.031 Use or threatened use of force in defense of property.—
    (2) A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force only if he or she reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.
    776.08 Forcible felony.—“Forcible felony” means treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual.

    • Excellent. It is absolutely critical that gun owners, and especially people who carry daily, know the law. And I am not talking about a discussion with your buddies or some internet lawyer. They must read the actual criminal code and understand it. Otherwise, they are putting themselves into a very precarious position. For example, while the code lists burglary it would be wise to research the definition of burglary under the Florida code. As a probation officer in Utah, we had to interpret the code to differentiate between burglary of a garage, which was a misdemeanor, and burglary of a dwelling (which included a garage attached to a dwelling) which was a felony.

      My point is simply to ensure, no matter what state you live in, that you understand the criminal code. If your life is in imminent danger there isn’t a lot of doubt, but you really need to know what the code says before you shoot someone for hauling your TV away.

      • Yep, there is a big difference between a carjacking and stealing an empty car from the driveway. Burglary and robbery are also two different things. But if you confront a burglar and they object and come at you threatening violence instead of running away then that changes things again.

  3. Really, and how do I know that the gangbanger looting my property will not shoot me to get my stuff? They com on my property, I have reasonable suspicion that my life is in danger. I will give you one warning, then you leave, or I shoot. I guess the difference for me, I will not shoot to kill. I will just put a hole in your foot to make you think twice. And yes, I will accept the assault charges that go with that if I have too.

    • Roger C. Minger on

      Hell yes I would take 3-5 years in prison over my stupid car, truck, or other completely replaceable item. Plus never be able to own a firearm again…Hell yes totally worth it!!

  4. I swear, some of you people are looking for a reason to shoot somebody. God forbid I ever have to defend myself or my family, but rest assured – if their life depended on it I would not hesitate. However, watching some dude steal my car is another story all together. Its called insurance people, and you will be made whole again. That’s why you pay your monthly premium.

    • Aaaaamen, Sheepdog!! Even though one may be an otherwise legally qualified concealed carry individual, I cannot discount the apparent borderline gunfighter mentality of some of these responses.

      CTARNG (1964-1970)
      FL DOC CO (Ret)

  5. Pingback: Florida ‘Hurricane Gun Law’ Allows Evacuees to Be Armed While Fleeing Storm | Jews Can Shoot

  6. Were gun sales halted during Hurricane Irma in Florida?
    I was in Walmart just before the hurricane impacted Gainesville and they had signs that stated “Gun sales are prohibited”.
    Was Martial Law declared?

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