So here we are — again — marking the anniversary of an entirely unjust, unnecessary death of an innocent black man. Here we are — again — wondering how many more young men of color will be sacrificed to the lethal combination of bias and firearms. And here we are — again — wondering when Florida will finally recognize that its ill-conceived stand your ground law is little more than an invitation to kill.
A lot has changed in the year since Markeis McGlockton, an unarmed black man, was shot dead over a parking spot, with his girlfriend watching and young children nearby. That girlfriend has since given birth to his son — a baby she didn’t even know she was carrying that fateful day in Clearwater.
What hasn’t changed is the shocking lack of justice in Florida, where the shameful stand your ground law continues to afford killers a “get out of jail free” card. It is a scourge on our state and on all law-abiding residents, who should be haunted and outraged by this case, and so many others.
For people of color, stand your ground laws like Florida’s are an example of racist legislation that unfairly penalizes them — all too often by justifying their untimely death. In the “Gunshine State,” lawmakers have not worked alone; the NRA’s Political Victory Fund PAC raised $4.4 million in the last three election cycles alone, according to Florida’s campaign finance database. No wonder Democratic lawmakers have been unsuccessful in their attempts to repeal this ugly, NRA-backed law.
In 2005, after the enactment of the stand your ground law in Florida (the first of its kind in the country), murders by firearms increased statewide. Since then, murder rates have climbed by nearly 40 percent, from 2.9 firearm murders per 100,000 Floridians in 2005 to 4.0 in 2018. That difference may seem small, but if you consider how minorities are disproportionately impacted, then you can see why I say lenient gun laws like stand your ground are racist legislation.
I think of all the times I have grieved over tragic anniversaries with black families. I think of Trayvon Martin, gunned down in Sanford by a wannabe cop who was “threatened” by a kid armed with Skittles and an iced tea. Corey Jones, gunned down in Palm Beach Gardens by a plainclothes cop who never identified himself and then lied about it. Jordan Davis, shot dead outside a Jacksonville gas station in a dispute over loud music by a white man who unsuccessfully tried to invoke stand your ground.
Florida’s dubious stand your ground law has proven to be a decoy, time and again shielding killers from punishment. It’s the defense of those who shoot first and think later, and I wonder if we seem to be okay with it because it’s so often used when the perpetrator is white and the dead victim is black.
Nothing can bring Markeis McGlockton back to his grieving girlfriend, their three young children who were there the day he died, or the baby son he never got to see. But don’t we owe it to them, to the other grieving families, and to all of us who mourn these lost lives to kill stand your ground before another black man is killed in its name?
Ben Crump is a nationally known civil rights attorney who represents Markeis McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, and their children.