Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Joe Henderson: After GOP gives NRA another ‘gun rights’ victory, what’s next?

in 2017/Statewide by

This was a pretty famous case. You might remember it.

On Nov. 23, 2012, Michael David Dunn was at a gas station in Jacksonville when he got into an argument with 17-year-old Jordan Davis, who was there with some friends. It seems the music coming from Davis’ car was too way loud for Dunn’s taste.

There was an argument, which ended with Dunn going back to his car to retrieve a loaded handgun. He had a concealed-weapons permit for the gun.

BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!

He fired off 10 shots in the car killing Davis, who was unarmed. He then went out for a pizza.

Dunn claimed he felt threatened and invoked Florida’s Stand Your Ground defense.

His first trial ended in a hung jury, but he was convicted in a retrial and is now serving life in prison without parole. If — well, when — the same thing happens in the future, though, the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott have greatly increased the odds the next shooter will go free.

Scott signed a bill, introduced and passed by Republicans with a party-line vote, that could make it difficult (if not impossible) for prosecutors to convict anyone invoking Stand Your Ground. Prosecutors will now have to prove a shooter didn’t feel threatened and, well, how can they do that?

The National Rifle Association, of course, doesn’t see it that way. In a release after the new bill became law, Marion Hammer — NRA Grand Dame and Executive Director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida — celebrated the new law that, in her words, “ … places the burden of proof back on the state where it belongs.  And it restores the right of the presumption of innocence and the right of self-defense.”

Well, not exactly.

Let’s say there is video of a shooting along the lines of what happened in Jacksonville, where a guy goes back to his car and gets his gun and starts blasting away. Well, what are you going to believe — your lyin’ eyes, or the argument Dunn tried to make that he thought he saw a shotgun in Davis’ car?

There was no shotgun, but Davis’ swears he thought he saw one. Going forward, the state would have to prove he made that up to cover his tracks.

Oh, but wait … the NRA isn’t through expanding what it laughably calls “gun rights.”

How long will it be before some legislative lap dog tries to push through a “permitless carry” law in Florida? Such a measure would allow anyone who would otherwise qualify for a license to carry permit to do so without the burden of obtaining a license.

Don’t laugh.

Twelve states already have that law, and it apparently came close to passing this year in Texas. When North Dakota adopted that law in March, the NRA noted in a release that it, “ … reduces the burden of government fees and mandates on citizens who choose to exercise their Second Amendment right to self-protection.”

Does it ever stop?

I know, silly question.

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Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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