After a violent week of shootings by and of police in the U.S., government in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas said it has “taken a note of the recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by police officers”, and issued an unprecedented advisory to its citizens traveling to the United States, just as the islands began a weekend celebration of their 43rd year of independence from the British.
In a press release, the Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration said they expect many Bahamians to travel abroad, and warns its citizens traveling to the U.S., but “especially to the affected cities, to exercise appropriate caution generally.”
The statement goes on to say, “In particular, young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police. Do not be confrontational and cooperate.”
The Ministry advises Bahamians, to “not get involved in political or other demonstrations under any circumstances and avoid crowds.”
Protests and marches took place throughout the U.S. in the immediate aftermath of deadly police shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana, and New York of unarmed Black men.
The Bahamas has consular offices in New York, Washington, Miami and Atlanta and honorary consuls in Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago and Houston.
This Bahamian advisory is a bit unprecedented, but there have been warnings in the past from other nations for their citizens to avoid road rage and to watch out for guns in America, or more subtle but obvious safety advisories about air travel, warnings about American rip-offs, or unusual cautions like avoiding U.S. prostitutes, public urination, and nudity.
This site is non-partisan but occasionally I’m compelled to throw a little virtual paper hat into the ring. Especially when no one else is shouting for an end to “stand your ground” laws.
While watching the Republican presidential debates on ABC in December, many of us may have had a feeling something was missing. Moms Demand Action made me realize what it was, and a tweet done in haste made quite an impression that night, earning it the spot as the final “tweet of the month” for 2015:
There are quite a few more opportunities to catch the candidates from both parties expound on their platforms, and we must remind them that domestic gun violence among Americans is just as much a threat as domestic or international terrorism. Here’s a schedule of debates coming up in 2016:
Last month, Time Magazine wrote an article titled #BlackLivesMatter Is Winning The Democratic Primary, an ode to the hard work and resilience shown by grassroots activists combating the criminalization and stigmatization of Black Communities around the country. Last week, Presidential Candidate, Jeb Bush took the stage in front of the National Urban League in his home state of Florida with the opportunity to convey the message to people across the country that he and his fellow Republicans take the Movement for Black Lives seriously and are committed to polices that will truly help all Americans. However, he missed a tremendous opportunity to talk about a law that has disproportionately plagued the Black population his state, the Stand Your Ground law.
Stand Your Ground effectively allows citizens to defend themselves, even outside of their own homes with deadly force if they deem necessary. Florida enacted the law in 2005…
Moral Monday Georgia is a grassroots social justice group modeled after protest groups in North Carolina. Moral Monday protests are characterized by engaging in civil disobedience by entering the state legislature building and then being peacefully arrested. The protests are generally partisan against Republican actions.
[UPDATE: This hearing was postponed due to weather conditions in Atlanta, and will now be held at 3:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, February 5, 2014]
Georgia will hold a hearing before the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee on a bill to repeal the state’s stand your ground law on Wednesday, January 29, and advocates are calling on supporters to “pack the house”.
The bill, SB 280, introduced by Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), seeks to repeal the statute relating to “no duty to retreat” in Georgia’s self-defense laws. The hearing will take place at 3:00 p.m. (EST) in Room 307 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, located at 18 Capitol Square in Atlanta.
Senator Fort said in a statement that he is calling for “a full and fair hearing” on SB 280, something he claims was not done with a related bill last session. He said this bill, “seeks to end the morally wrong practice of allowing individuals to shoot first and ask questions later, a startling fact that is simply unacceptable for the citizens of this state.”
In November, Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition filed a lawsuit against Georgia challenging the state’s stand your ground law, as a result of two cases.
In one case, James Christopher Johnson III, a 25 year-old African-American, was killed at a nightclub in March of last year after an argument with a white man who was harassing his girlfriend. His killer later claimed stand your ground and was acquitted.
2013 was the year stand your ground law became a major hot-button issue. After the George Zimmerman trial for the shooting of Trayvon Martin, civil rights groups, activists, elected officials, and news media outlets across America began calling for a repeal or changes in Florida’s stand your ground laws, causing several major events:
Until the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, few people had ever even heard of a stand your ground law. While Zimmerman never claimed stand your ground immunity, language from Florida’s notorious statute was used in the jury instructions, and news that he was acquitted resulted in a public perception that stand your ground played a role in the outcome.
After the Zimmerman trial, a group of Florida college students got together to form a coalition that quickly gained support and built momentum against stand your ground law in Florida. The Dream Defenders became unofficial leaders of a movement to change or repeal the law in Florida, pushing for lawmakers to hold a hearing.
A Florida woman who fired a warning shot toward an abusive husband became major news after the Zimmerman trial, and a symbol of women’s rights against domestic violence and everything that’s wrong with the state’s justice system when she was denied stand your ground immunity, then subsequently sentenced to a mandatory 20 years in prison.
A judge later granted her a new trial based on faulty jury instructions, and she is free on bond pending the new trial. The case helped force the state to make changes to the law regarding warning shots, at a Florida Senate hearing held preceding the state’s stand your ground hearing.
For the first time, the federal government held a hearing on stand your ground laws in America. The U.S. Senate hearing, originally scheduled for September 17 in Washington, D.C., was postponed due to news of a mass shooting the day before at a nearby Navy Yard. The majority of a nine-member panel testified against the laws.
Florida finally held a much-anticipated hearing on a bill to repeal stand your ground law, and as also anticipated – (especially since the chairman of the committee had said he wouldn’t change “one damn comma” of the law) – the repeal was rejected. Other efforts are underway to change stand your ground law in Florida, where it all started.
The Zimmerman trial, other incidents, and legislative actions in city halls and state capitols since that trial have ensured that until major concessions take place to close loopholes existing within stand your ground laws, they will continue to be controversial.
Ohio state lawmakers, despite months of multiple protests, demonstrations, and thousands of signatures on petitions, are poised to enact sweeping changes that expand the state’s self defense laws and eliminate a duty to retreat, a primary factor that creates dangerous stand your ground laws.
By a vote of 62 to 27, the Ohio House of Representatives this week voted in favor of HB 203, and passed it to the state Senate for approval.
The new legislation would expand no duty to retreat to include anywhere a person has a right to be in Ohio, effectively creating a form of stand your ground law in the state.
All American states have some sort of self-defense laws. Currently, as in other states, Ohio residents, under current Castle Doctrine, have no duty to retreat in their homes or vehicles. While HB 203 doesn’t include the words “stand your ground”, it implies it.
That day also brought out tension from both sides of the polarized debate, as opponents of the HB 203 were met by handfuls of gun-toting proponents. Some proponents say the bill is unfairly being called a “stand your ground” law when it is what they claim only an enhancement of current state gun laws.
Opponents assert that Ohio doesn’t need stand-your-ground, and believe the proposed law isn’t about self-defense, but is instead about a fear of black people – going beyond the state’s current self-defense laws – and allows for the killing of unarmed people.
Opponents also claim it promotes violence, and has no place in their state. State Representative Alicia Reece (D-Columbus) recently said, “Stand Your Ground would do nothing but turn our state into the Wild, Wild West.”
It currently requires 12 hours of firearm training to get a concealed-carry permit in Ohio; under HB 203 that would be cut to 4 hours. Proponents argue it would make it financially easier to get a permit. Opponents argue it would be inadequate training.
The new gun law would also make Ohio automatically recognize concealed weapon permits issued by any state that recognizes Ohio’s permits; and bring the state into compliance with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, so anyone with a state gun licenses can automatically buy a gun without a background check.
The two-hour House session this week was briefly interrupted by a courageous group of protesters who shouted, sang, hung a banner over a balcony, and chanted “O-H-I-O, stand your ground has got to go” as they were escorted out (video courtesy of Mark Kovac, CapitalOhioBlog).
At a hearing on last Thursday, Florida lawmakers gave some young people a slap in the face, voting 11-2 against a bill calling for a full repeal of the state’s stand your ground law.
The Florida House of Representatives also gave some attendees the impression they had come into the hearing with their minds already made up that they would shoot down SB 4003, a bill introduced by State Representative Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee).
The lawmakers questioned Williams at length during the five-hour hearing, with much grilling coming from Chairman Matt Gaetz, who sometimes appeared to try to ridicule Williams’ attempts to sell the bill. Gaetz has been infamously quoted as saying he will not change “one damn comma” of Florida’s stand your ground law.
Williams insisted that his bill would simply cause the state’s current self-defense law to revert to its original form, what he called “common law” that existed before the 2005 legislation which enacted stand your ground law.
Gaetz used the opportunity draw an analogy between stand your ground with Williams’ common law, referring to the two as “buckets of laws”, one with more self-defense rights (stand your ground), and the other with less rights. He questioned which would be more preferable to someone who had the urgency to defend themselves.
The Webster Room in Florida’s Capitol was almost filled to capacity with about an equal amount of polarized HB 4003 proponents like the Dream Defenders, and opponents like NRA members occupying opposite sides of the room.
“Remember November” were the words used by Dream Defenders leader Philip Agnew as he spoke at the hearing. He was referring to next year’s state elections, when legislators seeking re-election face this new young breed of voters. Teenagers as young as 14 years-old spoke in favor of a repeal.
The lawmakers also heard from Lucia Mcbath, mother of stand your ground victim Jordan Davis, as she made another impassioned plea calling for changes in the law. She had appeared days earlier at a U.S. Senate hearing on stand your ground.
Ron Davis, the teenager’s father, also called for changes, and the House heard from attorney Daryl Parks, representing Sybrina Fulton & Tracy Martin, parents of Trayvon Martin, who were not at the hearing.
Gun advocate Marion Hammer, a past president of the NRA, made a short statement, purporting that “stand your ground is a good law”, and many other gun advocates spoke out against the repeal bill, or waived their chance to speak in opposition.
Before the lawmakers even voted on Williams’ bill, several in the proponent camp appeared to believe that the House would vote against the repeal. Agnew, the Dream Defenders leader, said, “It’s not over. We’ll just regroup and come back stronger next time.”
A crucial event affecting stand your ground law takes place today, as Florida lawmakers consider a bill calling for a full repeal of the state’s stand your ground law.
Some people who support the law are seizing any opportunity to point out a division within the movement to end stand your ground. They see that there are some of us who want a full and complete repeal and others who simply want changes in the law.
A House hearing starts at 3:00 p.m. in Webster Hall, 212 Knott Bldg. at the Florida state capitol in Tallahassee. Now is the time for those against stand your ground to come together, pack the house, and deliver a unified message. What, exactly, do we want?
The gun lobby would like people to believe that any attack on stand your ground laws is an attack on their Second Amendment rights. They could not be more wrong. It’s a proven and recorded fact that these laws have been the subject of abuse by criminals and others who try to manipulate the law. Since it is a law that is open to abuse, perhaps it should be completely repealed. That way, a new self-defense bill based on research and experience with the present form as it exists could be drafted.
On the other hand, simply changing certain statutes, especially as it pertains to the ambiguous “no duty to retreat” clause, inherent in stand your ground laws, may pacify some people who maintain this is the flash point.
Whatever options are available to alter or repeal stand your ground should, of course, be carefully looked at, and a clear, common goal will be evident for those who support stand your ground. NRA supporters want to pack their guns. Today, anyone against stand your ground should use a bus, a car, or any other means necessary to pack the house.
A new frenzy of activity involving stand your ground laws may soon have some gun-toting, second amendment quoting vigilante kooks shaking.
For the first time since neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Florida’s Senate recently held a hearing on changes to the state’s controversial stand-your-ground law, and new guidelines for deadly force and self-defense by neighborhood watch groups were approved by the state senate’s Judiciary Committee.
Then, last week, for the first time in history, the federal government held a U.S. Senate hearing on stand your ground laws in America.
A few days later, a new trial date was set for Marissa Alexander, the Florida victim of domestic violence who fired a warning shot into a wall, and was sentenced to 20 years in jail. Why didn’t stand your ground work for her?
The day after Alexander’s status hearing, Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Push Coalition filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia in connection with two Georgia stand your ground cases.
This week, the next major hurdle takes place as a legislator in Florida leads a charge into the Florida House of Representatives to repeal stand your ground laws.
State Representative Alan Williams has introduced SB 4003, a bill calling for a full repeal of stand your ground laws in Florida. I received a call from his office a few days ago, urging a roundup of supporters for the bill at a state senate hearing before the House of Representatives in Tallahassee on Thursday, November 7th. Many opponents of stand your ground law, including the young activist group Dream Defenders, are expected to attend the hearing.
The resistance – to keep the law – is large, loud, and powerful. Williams wants his state, where it all started, to be the first to end stand your ground law. So far, most efforts to merely change the law in Florida have been blocked. But the movement to change the law is growing.
Both proponents and opponents can agree that stand your ground laws – as currently written – do not work. In fact, according to statistical research released by several groups, these laws do just the opposite of what they were intended to do,
Stand your ground laws expand the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and long-established Castle Doctrine. These new laws are reportedly designed to give legal, law-abiding citizens the right to defend themselves in the face of imminent death or injury – anywhere they have a right to be – without thinking first about how to defuse or get out of the situation (no duty to retreat).
That anywhere could literally be anywhere – a public place like a park, a school, an event, a niteclub, or at work. Or, in a private place, such as a back alley, in someone else’s home (as long as your’re invited), or at a private party. With a concealed-carry permit, you’re protected by the law – and whatever caliber steel you prefer, provided you can prove the imminent threat of death or injury by the other party.
Of course, a killer could still be charged with other crimes as a result, yet actually get away with murder, no time in jail, or less than the maximum sentence – because they claimed stand your ground immunity.
The Florida hearing on the bill to repeal is tomorrow. The NRA lobby is sure to be there. So the movement to end stand your ground laws must be larger, louder, and more powerful in order to jump this next hurdle.
Last week, for the first time, the federal government held a hearing on stand your ground laws in America, with testimony that was riveting and sometimes emotional, as most of those on a nine-member panel testified against the laws.
In every state that has a “stand your ground”-type provision, the law is similar, and universally includes a “no duty to retreat” imposed by these new laws, but vary in use of deadly force.
Committee Chairman Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) appeared to favor some type of federal legislation, although federal authority cannot dictate state laws on self-defense.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) emphasized this, even implicating there may be a “political agenda” behind the hearing. His cohort, Texas State Representative Louis Gourmet (R) echoed the sentiment that legislation on the laws must be left with the states.
But Durbin acknowledged the NRA-ALEC connection to stand your ground laws, and cited past or recent studies and reports which he said show that stand your ground law allowed “shooters to walk free in shocking situations. Durbin said the laws “emboldened those who carry guns to initiate confrontations which have ended up killing unarmed children, increase racial disparity,” and said, “it’s clear these laws often go too far in encouraging confrontations that escalate into deadly violence.”
Cruz, of course, defended stand your ground, expounding the benefits of the second amendment. He claims that doing away with the laws would take away the right to defend yourself on a public street.
Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) used the Trayvon Martin shooting as an example of racial profiling and said George Zimmerman was exonerated due to the laws, calling the laws unjust and biased.
Illinois State Representative Luis Guitterez (D) blamed the gun lobby on spreading an agenda of shoot first. and said he was shocked by the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the fact that no one was immediately arrested, and that there was no conviction.
Sybrina Fulton spoke about her son Trayvon, and said it is important that stand your ground is amended, saying “this law does not work” and that law enforcement and legal authorities should be contacted to do something about the laws.
Professor Ron Sullivan, Jr., Director of Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Institute explained a correlation between stand your ground and violence, and spoke out against racial profiling and policing by citizens.
David Labahn, President of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, replaced William Meggs on the panel, and offered recommendations for reforms He said stand your ground provides “safe harbor” for criminals, and ties up the legal system with cases.
Ilya Shapiro, of CATO Institute, another proponent of the laws, defended stand your ground, while an opponent of the laws, John Lott, attempted to explain effects of racial disparities and gun laws on the outcome of incidents and statistics.
Yet it was Lucia Mcbath who gave the most riveting, emotional testimony, recounting the November incident last year which took the life of her son Jordan Davis. Mcbath, now the national spokesperson for Moms Demand Action, said she faces “the very real possibility that her son’s killer will walk free.”
Mcbath spoke of how the laws empower people like Michael Dunn – the man accused of gunning down her son – who she said had “no ground to stand”, and said the law “declares open season on anyone we don’t trust for reasons we don’t even understand…in essence it allows any armed citizen to self-deputize themselves and establish their own definition of law and order…even the wild west had more stringent laws than what we have now.”
She appeared to break down, her voice cracking, as she spoke of how she never got to take Davis’ prom picture or see him graduate from high school and her memories of him. Lawmakers did not call on neither of the mothers for questioning.