A rash of police killings of Blacks has shifted the dialogue surrounding #BlackLivesMatter away from gun-toting vigilantes like George Zimmerman to calls for more police oversight. Yet, the same Florida law that allowed Zimmerman to walk out of court a free man after his deadly shooting of Trayvon Martin remains on the books.
Lucia McBath, mother of slain teenager Jordan Davis, continues to fight the Stand Your Ground law. While Michael Dunn, the man who killed her son in 2012 over a loud music dispute, was convicted of murder last year, McBath aims to prevent others from using the law to justify senseless killings.
McBath recently attended Politicon, a politics and entertainment convention in Los Angeles. There, she had harsh words for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who signed Stand Your Ground into law and is currently running for president.
“What I would like to say to him is that the law is not working to protect citizens,” she told ThinkProgress at the convention. “It’s not doing whatever you thought it was supposed to do. I would hope you would take a look at what’s happening across the country, the mass shootings and the individual shootings, and really think about what you’ve helped to usher in.”
The number of so-called justifiable homicides in Florida has reportedly tripled since Stand Your Ground’s enactment in 2005. Moreover, 23 states have followed the Sunshine State’s lead and added their own Stand Your Ground laws to the books. McBath, a spokeswoman for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said that she may not be able to get Stand Your Ground laws repealed, but she hopes to at least get the wording of such legislation changed so it doesn’t embolden others to kill in situations where they could just as easily walk away from a conflict. McBath also supports background checks of would-be gun owners to curb firearm-related deaths.
While she wants to hold Bush accountable for enacting Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, McBath isn’t likely to find an ally in the candidate. After a mass shooting at a community college in Oregon a couple of weeks ago, Bush did not call for tougher gun laws but quipped in response to the tragedy, “Look, stuff happens. There’s always a crisis.”
Bush has also done little to address the concerns raised by the #BlackLivesMatter community. In July, he doubled down on politicians who’ve apologized for using the term #AllLivesMatter, describing them as “so uptight and so politically correct.”
In September, Bush garnered criticism for suggesting that Democrats appeal to Black voters by offering to “take care of you with free stuff.” Other Republicans have made similar comments about African-Americans and have been equally hesitant to support stricter gun laws. Additionally, a bill that broadens gun and “stand your ground” rights was approved in Florida’s Senate committees Tuesday. The committees also approved bills that would allow licensed gun owners to carry weapons openly in public and people with concealed weapons permits to carry guns on college campuses.
“This adds an additional burden on the state to prove the innocence of the victims and the guilt of the shooters,” McBath told the Senate.
She pointed out how her son’s killer almost got away with murder. Dunn had to be tried twice before a jury convicted him. McBath is not the only one questioning the new bills. Javier Ortiz, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, agreed that expanding Stand Your Ground was a bad idea.
“Unfortunately, people want to be police officers like George Zimmerman,” he said. “We don’t need George Zimmerman to walk around with firearms exposed.”
Sen. Audrey Gibson also voted against expansion of Stand Your Ground, questioning what effect the various gun bills would have on public safety. McBath remains concerned about the impact of gun violence on the nation as a whole and the largely underwhelming response the Republican presidential contenders have had to it.
“The American people need to demand from those candidates their platform on gun violence prevention, and I think that’s going to be a deciding factor on who we elect,” she said.