Earlier this month, I got on the phone with Florida Governor Rick Scott and pleaded with him to do the right thing and reject a bill that would expand the state’s already deadly Stand Your Ground law.
Instead, he disgraced all Floridians and deeply wounded me on Friday by signing SB 128, which flips the burden of proof in pretrial immunity hearings to prosecutors, effectively requiring Stand Your Ground defendants to be convicted twice, once in front of a judge and once in front of a jury.
I called Governor Scott to appeal to him as a parent. More than four years ago, my only child, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed in a Florida gas station parking lot in a dispute over loud music. Jordan was only 17. He was Black and the shooter was White. My son was unarmed. He died at the hands of someone who assumed the worst of him.
I shared with Gov. Scott how Jordan’s killer invoked a Stand Your Ground defense, arguing that my son and his friends — also unarmed — frightened him and he had the right to defend himself with a gun. It took two grueling trials for Jordan’s killer to finally to be sentenced to life in prison without parole. I asked Gov. Scott to please consider how this bill would hurt Florida families — particularly families of color.
In my eyes, Jordan’s killing was a hate crime committed by a man who was threatened by the mere existence of Black teenage boys.
On the same day Governor Scott expanded Stand Your Ground, he proclaimed June 12th as Pulse Memorial Day. Not only am I outraged, I find this to be tone-deaf and hypocritical.
Expanding Stand Your Ground sends a clear message to communities of color: We are not welcome or safe in Florida. This new law will only encourage more violence, making it easier for hate-motivated, gun criminals to avoid prosecution.
More than 8,000 gun-related hate crimes take place in our country every year, and now with this already deadly law expanded, I fear even more violence for Florida’s marginalized communities. The citizens of Florida deserve better than someone who kowtows to the gun lobby.
This week, organizations across the country including Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety are joining forces for #DisarmHate Week, to honor those killed at in the tragedies at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida and at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina and to honor those who have died from hate-fueled attacks, like my dear son Jordan.
Mental illness, hate and anger exist everywhere, but in America too often it comes armed. Just this week, outside of our nation’s capital, reports indicate a shooter targeted Congressional leaders based on their party affiliation during baseball practice in Virginia.
Whether it’s racism, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, xenophobia, religious intolerance or other bias – we demand to live in a country where we can be safe to be who we are, believe what we want and love whomever we want. Now is the time to disarm hate.
While Florida’s governor has missed a chance to stand up in the fight against gun violence, others are bravely standing up to protect the lives of marginalized groups, including communities of color.
To reduce the gun violence that kills more than 90 Americans each day, we must demand our lawmakers take action to disarm hate and keep guns out of dangerous hands.
We support legislation introduced last week by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Representative David Cicilline called the Disarm Hate Act, which would prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from buying or possessing guns.
And we support closing loopholes in our background check laws, including the loophole that allows people to purchase guns through unlicensed sales with no background check and no questions asked and the Charleston loophole — which allowed the man who shot and killed nine Black churchgoers in Charleston to buy a gun he wasn’t legally allowed to purchase.
I am frustrated by Gov. Scott’s actions, but we will keep fighting. Lives are on the line, and I refuse to sit quietly.
The future for our families and communities is on the line.