Last week, a second, unarmed black male was killed in the name of Florida”s Stand Your Ground law. A gun enthusiast named Michael Dunn didn’t care for the volume of the music playing in the car that Jordan David and his friends were sitting in outside of a convenience store where Dunn’s wife was retrieving more wine. While the details of the dialogue are yet to be known, we do know that Dunn fired eight shots into the car, striking 17 year old David twice. Dunn then drove off and was arrested the next day – 180 miles away – based on information from eyewitness accounts. His attorney is invoking Florida’s SYG law in his defense, saying that Dunn believed that he was in danger from a shotgun that has yet to be found.
There is a harsh reality to the concealed carry and SYG laws implemented in states around the country that their proponents willfully ignore. There is anecdotal evidence that the laws afford regular, law-abiding citizens an effective method of self-protection. But at least for the second time, the ready availability of a firearm has empowered the self-absorbed, the stupid and possibly the racist to seek out and initiate confrontation with others, for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the law or with self-defense. Conflict over vehicular etiquette, the volume of music and even a person’s very lawful presence on a public street has escalated into tragedy. To date, the people of Florida and in other states seem willing to view such tragedy as an acceptable downside of a law that they favor. I suspect, however, that they have not thought through the response that people – particularly people of color – must now consider.
A person must assume – or at the very least consider – that anyone demonstrating the temerity to approach them in a confrontational manner must be carrying a weapon. In the interest of self-preservation, that person must also be carrying a weapon and must reach for it in preparation to pull it. If the person who initiates the confrontation also reaches, the target must pull. If the initiator pulls, the target must fire if they are to have any hope of surviving an encounter that they didn’t initiate. Those who, like me, have had firearms training have been told that if they must fire, they do so center mass and they do not stop until the threat is neutralized. The law must then sort out who was acting within its bounds.
I would not be at all surprised to see concealed carry and SYG laws resulting in a return to a “wild west” style of personal interaction. In the end, the only ones who win are those who manufacture the guns. I know my permit application will be submitted next week. Perhaps the only way that the citizens of Florida or any other state with an SYG law might rethink the reckless development, implementation and application of such a law is when law abiding black citizens begin shooting back.