Florida, Florida, the redneck riviera
Florida, Florida, there’s no more pathetic place in America
yes a man must make unpopular decisions, surely from time to time
and a man can only stand what a man can stand
it’s a wobbly volatile line
– Vic Chesnutt
Florida is not alone in allowing the concealed conveyance of loaded firearms, unfortunately. Although the United States Supreme Court has not ruled on the constitutionality of permitting restrictions, nearly all states allow concealed-carry with few if any impediments.
In addition, however, Florida is one of more than twenty states with a specific stand-your-ground law that imposes no duty on an individual to retreat before resorting to deadly force even in situations away from the home.
The result of this lethal combination has been a number of well publicized use of deadly force cases (the shooting death of Trayvon Martin on the street, the movie theatre shooting death of Chad Oulson and the fatal shooting of Jordan Davis while he sat in a vehicle in a convenience store parking lot) and a 200% spike in so-called justifiable homicides in Florida according to a comprehensive report released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Even as the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis lobby to repeal or at least weaken Florida’s stand-your-ground law, GOP legislators in the state seek to limit media scrutiny of SYG shootings following an unfavorable report on the law’s application and outcomes by the Tampa Bay Times.
The combined effect of an armed and carrying citizenry and an expansive stand-your-ground law is that Florida has become an increasingly unsafe place. Not only do we have to worry about criminals with guns – every state in the union has to worry about them thanks to our overall lax national gun laws – but in Florida we also have to worry about the trigger-happy, law-abiding gun carrier who no longer is legally constrained to act responsibly; instead, he now has a legal get-out-of-jail-free card to shoot anyone who pisses him off while claiming that he felt threatened.
It was lunacy for the people of Florida to elect NRA-lapdog loonies to govern them and pass such laws. So maybe it’s time for the rest of us to bring them to their senses. And the best way to accomplish that is via the pocket-book, by mounting a tourist boycott of Florida.
Not convinced? Well, picture this: You’re a British (or New York) wife and mother holidaying in Florida to see Disneyworld. Your husband or teenage son, who’s gone back to the rented car for his sunglasses, gets into an argument with some jerk in the parking lot. Maybe he’s complaining about the way your car is parked too close to his. The argument escalates. Your son or husband is big enough that they’re not easily intimidated. The jerk gets angry, pulls out his pistol and shoots your son or husband dead. There is no witness close enough to see or hear exactly what happened.
Under Florida law the shooter will claim he shot in self-defense because he felt threatened, and that he was not required to retreat before using deadly force. There are no witnesses to contradict his version of events, the putative threat to his life for example; and the fact that your husband or son was unarmed will carry little if any weight, nor the fact that the shooter instigated the confrontation, assuming he admitted as much. The burden of proof that it was not a justified killing has already shifted to prosecutors and away from the perpetrator of the shooting. The jerk in this scenario will walk, almost certainly without being prosecuted.
There are, of course, a million possible scenarios for someone to claim a justifiable homicide, but it will nearly always be with a firearm and rarely when the victim is also armed. And not only does Florida’s SYG law almost always favor the shooter, it has the effect, whether intended or not, of encouraging the gun carrier to kill rather than wound; after all, we don’t want police to hear an alternative version of events, do we?
It’s true that being black almost certainly increases your risk of being shot by both the criminal and law abiding gun carrier alike. But let’s not kid ourselves that the rest of us aren’t at risk. Just ask Chad Oulson.
Florida is no longer a fit place to visit. We should send a clear message to Floridians and their deeply misguided politicians by giving it a miss from our vacation plans.