Nearly 3 1/2 years ago, I found myself on a path I did not choose, fighting a battle I did not start, advocating to change dangerous gun laws I never knew existed.
My son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed at a Jacksonville, Fla., gas station on Nov. 23, 2012, in what has been deemed the nation’s “loud music case.” My son died senselessly, shot by a man empowered by lax gun policies — like SB 656, currently being considered in the Missouri Legislature — that encourage armed vigilantism by ordinary citizens. In that moment when Jordan was shot and killed, I became a member of the club that no one wants to join.
Each time I learn of another shooting and each time I meet another family that has been torn apart by gun violence, I’m brought back to the heartache, the tears and the sorrow, which never go away. And I’m reminded once again of the phone call I received about my son’s death. Too many other mothers and fathers have received that same phone call. It’s every parent’s worst fear.
And each time I learn about another legislature putting special interests ahead of public safety, each time I learn about another bill — like SB 656, which encourages individuals to shoot first and ask questions later — I’m brought back to the reasons why I have dedicated my life to advocating for sensible gun laws. And I am reminded of why my fight for Jordan is never over.
Before Jordan’s murder, I didn’t know all that much about gun laws or about how lawmakers play petty politics and make quick decisions without considering the true impact of the bills they justify passing.
In the final days of its session, the Missouri Legislature is considering SB 656, a bill that includes a litany of dangerous gun provisions. The bill will put more guns in more places and at the same time dismantle permit and training requirements for people who want to carry hidden, loaded guns in public. It also includes a so-called “stand your ground” provision — a provision that upends traditional self-defense law and emboldens individuals to settle conflicts by reaching for their firearms, even when they can clearly and safely walk away from any danger.
If this bill is enacted, Missouri will be the first state since Trayvon Martin’s murder to become a new “stand your ground” state. These laws give everyday civilians more leeway to shoot than the U.S. military gives soldiers in a war zone. These laws turn everyday conflicts into deadly shootouts by allowing people to shoot to kill — even when there is a clear and safe alternative.
Researchers have found that “stand your ground” laws do not deter crime; in fact, states that enact bills like SB 656 see increases in homicide rates. Florida’s justifiable homicide rate tripled after it enacted a “stand your ground” law. And to make matters worse, “stand your ground” laws disproportionately affect communities of color: When white shooters kill black victims, the resulting homicides are 11 times more likely to be deemed justifiable homicides than when the shooter is black and the victim white. The last thing we need in Missouri is more violence and strife in our communities.
The Missouri mothers, mayors, gun violence survivors, faith leaders and families I’ve met with all know we need common-sense laws that make our communities safer. This bill is not that.
It is down to the wire — the Missouri Legislature only has a few more days in session this year — but there’s still time to stop the dangerous trajectory this bill is on.
They must understand the repercussions of their actions. I want them to understand that the policies that they are pushing through with haste, particularly “stand your ground,” would be destructive to Missouri communities.
For Jordan, for Trayvon and for Missouri families and communities, Jefferson City lawmakers need to understand that if they choose to ignore the calls of thousands of Missourians, then we will find new leaders who will listen and who will fight with us for common-sense gun laws. The time to speak up is now.
Lucy McBath is the faith and outreach leader for Everytown for Gun Safety.