A classmate of Jordan Davis, age 17, weeps outside the memorial service
Imagine for a moment that someone cuts Joseph off in traffic, or does something that endangers him. Joe follows them into a 7-11 store and confronts them. The person who cut Joe off isn’t interested in hearing the criticism and becomes belligerent. He moves towards Joe in a threatening way, and tells him to get the hell out of the store, or he’ll F- him up. Under normal self defense laws, Joe can either retreat (i.e. leave the store), or if physical harm is imminent (for example if the other person pulled out a switchblade), Joe can legally defend himself.
But under the “Stand your Ground” law in Florida, and 20+ other Red states, if Joe feels threatened, he can pull out a concealed weapon and shoot the other person dead. Under “Stand your Ground” it doesn’t matter whether the threat is real or not, only whether the person in their own mind feels threatened.
The Stand Your Ground law, heavily supported by the NRA, basically allows gun-toting cowards to shoot an unarmed person dead, and then get away with murder, since they can claim “they felt threatened..” Several high profile cases show how dangerous this law is. First, Florida,Georgia, Texas and other red states already have both open and conceal carry laws that allow people to tote guns in public. These weapons, presumably for personal defense have now be used in arguments over cell phones and loud music.
In the Jordan Davis case, Davis, a 17 yr. old high school student, with no previous criminal history and generally a good student was shot to death in a gas station parking lot by Michael Dunn. Dunn had parked his car next to an SUV with four black high school students- all unarmed, and in an argument over the volume of the rap music, Dunn reached into his glove box and fired 10 shots into the SUV, killing Jordan Davis. In the initial trial the defense invoked “Stand Your Ground” claiming that Dunn feared for his life. Dunn tried to claim that Davis pointed a weapon out the window of the SUV, but there was no evidence of any weapon and Dunn’s finance’s testimony contradicted his claims. However, in the initial trial the First degree murder charge was declared a mistrial, presumably because the jurors could not agree.
In another high profile case, a retired police captain, Curtis Reeves shot and killed an unarmed theater goer Chad Oulson, age 43. During the previews, Oulson was texting on his cell phone, which apparently annoyed Reeves. The argument continued, with Oulson grabbing Reeves popcorn and throwing it at him. Apparently, that was enough to make Reeves feel threatened and that his life was in danger. He grabbed his concealed handgun and shot Oulson in chest. Olson’s wife, and mother of their young daughter, was seated next to him as he was killed.
Chad Oulson, with his wife and daughter before he was killed in a movie theater.
These two cases illustrate why it is so dangerous for people to carry weapons in public, and how under the guise self-defense and a misguided Stand Your Ground law the shooters in these cases can literally get away with murder. These were not life and death situations. Loud rap music and some black teenagers in an SUV, someone (God forbid) texting in a movie theater during the previews. Without guns, a rational person would choose a different parking spot (away from the rap music) or just ignore it. You can ignore texting in a theater, or if it really bothers you, change your seat or get the manager. Humans are unpredictable, conflicts with strangers can escalate and this is a great reason why the general public should not be walking around armed.
As for Stand Your Ground, the law does away with all reason, and provides a license to kill on a perceived threat that may or may not be real. A jury cannot determine what was in the mind of a shooter, it is better to rely on the evidence around a situation and determine whether a person genuinely faced an imminent threat or not.