The mother of slain teen Jordan Davis is speaking out against the gun-related bills moving through the legislature, especially one relating to Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law.
Whether it’s a bill allowing for open carry or another allowing for guns on college campuses, Lucia McBath says these bills are dangerous.
“They continue to loosen and expand the use of guns in this country,” said McBath. “The shooters are given the immunity to do whatever they want with their guns. Our communities are at risk, our families are at risk, our future generations are at risk, and we have to begin making our legislators accountable for what’s happening in the country.”
McBath is the mother of Jordan Davis, a Jacksonville teenager killed in a dispute over loud music. Michael Dunn, the man who fired the fatal shot, says it was self-defense. McBath says neither her son nor his friends were armed.
“No guns, no alcohol, no drugs,” she added. “The boys were completely innocent. They were shopping at the mall, and simply had stopped at the gas station to get chewing gum because my son said, ‘if we’re going to pick up girls…your breath stinks, guys. We gotta get chewing gum.’ They were simply sitting in the gas station when Michael Dunn drives in, and because they wouldn’t turn their music down, he ensues an altercation with them. He shoots 10 rounds into the car…just because he could, just because the Stand Your Ground law in this state allowed it.”
That’s why McBath is against a bill making changes to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law’s immunity hearing process. Today, if a person makes a self-defense claim, they must go before a judge and prove their claim is justified to avoid a trial. But, a bill moving in the Legislature would now shift the burden to prosecutors. McBath says she consider this an expansion of Stand Your Ground.
“Simply because now, the state has the burden of proof of proving twice the guilt of the shooter, once before a judge and then again before a jury,” she continued. “And, I understand having to go through two trials myself, just two jury trials, and how disheartening and how hard it was for us to get innocence proven of our son and the boys, this adds an additional burden on the state to prove the innocence of the victims and the guilt of the shooter.”
The bill actually stems from the case of an Indiana man, who claims he was defending himself and his family from another driver who sideswiped his car and later threatened his family. While no shots were fired, Jared Bretherick pointed a gun at the other driver. His attorney Eric Friday, who also represents gun rights group Florida Carry, says he was charged with aggravated assault. The matter later went before the Florida Supreme Court.
“Earlier this year, the Florida Supreme Court decided that a young man named Jared Bretherick who had no criminal record should prove that he was acting in self-defense. This young man was defending his parents—both disabled veterans—and his minor sister. They were attacked by a convicted felon who had previously beaten his pregnant girlfriend, had previously beaten another driver in an almost identical road rage case, and has since then, beat up a business associate on video without warning. This is not about what the Supreme Court decided this Summer though. This is about the authority of the legislature.”
“They were trying to look at our mind and determine ‘what was the legislative collective intent of the legislature,’” stated Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island).
Bradley, the bill's sponsor, disagrees with the Florida Supreme Court’s recent decision that prosecutors shouldn’t have to prove their case twice.
“You’re innocent, until proven guilty,” added Bradley. “This bill applies this fundamental tenet of criminal law to the self-defense immunity hearing. Unfortunately, the Florida Supreme Court, in its recent decision, in Bretherick v. state, misinterpreted legislative intent. In fact, the Bretherick decision was classic overreach, the kind of judicial overreach that conservatives such as myself, find objectionable. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Justices [Charles] Canady and [Ricky] Polston—the two conservatives on the court—agree with the logic in this bill…”
The bill also has the backing of the NRA, Trial Lawyers, Public Defenders, and Families Against Mandatory Minimums. It’s opposed by State Attorneys, who agree with the high court. They say the bill also leaves a lot of open questions and could result in another rewrite of the law.
But, Bradley believes in the merits of his bill.
“If a state is unable to convince a judge that there is sufficient evidence that an individual is guilty of a crime, then there is not sufficient evidence to convict someone at a trial,” said Bradley. “So, I reject this idea, out of hand, that this bill would result in otherwise guilty individuals going free.”
Meanwhile, as a father of three teenagers, Bradley says his heart does go out to McBath and her family for the loss of Jordan Davis.
After recently passing its first Senate panel, his measure still has two more stops to go before heading to the Senate floor. Meanwhile, its House companion has not yet had a hearing.
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