A sheriff in Florida vowed this week to deputize gun owners to protect county residents from rioters.
“If we can’t handle you, I’ll exercise the power and authority as the sheriff and I’ll make special deputies of every lawful gun owner in the county and I’ll deputize them to this one purpose: to stand in the gap between lawlessness and civility,” said Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels as he stood in front of 18 deputies.
Daniels clarified in the three-minute video posted on Facebook that he and his deputies swore to uphold the Constitution, and his words shouldn’t be taken as a threat to those who want to peacefully protest.
“We’ll protect your constitutional rights as long as you remain under the umbrella of peaceful protest. But the second you step out from up under the protection of the Constitution, we’ll be waiting on you and give you everything you want: all the publicity, all the pain, all the glamour and glory for all that five minutes will give you,” he said.
Daniels is African American, as are several of his deputies. His department has a “great relationship” with its residents, he said, but “if you come to Clay County and think for one second we’ll bend our backs for you, you’re sadly mistaken.”
Daniels did not indicate that his county had seen any rioting or that he expected to see any. But he appears worried that outside agitators will come into his community and encourage lawlessness.
“Lawlessness? That’s unacceptable in this country. Lawlessness is unacceptable in Clay County,” he said.
Daniels’ stance comes as cities nationwide struggle to maintain order amidst protesting and rioting in the name of racial justice. After allowing “protesters” to occupy a portion of Seattle for weeks, city police have been tasked with clearing the area after several people were murdered in the so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.
Daniels wouldn’t be the first sheriff to threaten to deputize citizens in the name of the Constitution. Sheriff Scott Jenkins in Culpepper County, Va., vowed last year to “properly screen and deputize thousands of law-abiding citizens to protect their constitutional right to own firearms.”
Jenkins has not needed to follow through on his threat, and it’s unclear whether Clay will, either.
Daniels is a Republican finishing his first term, and is being challenged by six opponents in an upcoming election.