Jordan was a natural charmer with the looks to pull what Rolling Stone called a “smoking-hot girlfriend,” but also the manners, family and grades to make his friend’s parents welcome him into their homes. He was the son, Ron Davis said earlier this year, that every father wants and whose death would transform most parents into staunch and vocal opponents of Florida’s gun laws.
Florida Has the Most Concealed-Weapon Permits
Dunn’s alleged behavior confirms what gun control advocates like Kristen Rand, legislative director at the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center, already think about the more than 1 million men and women in Florida — more than any other state — who have been given permission by the state to carry a concealed weapon.
“The whole theory was to put more guns in the hands of ‘good guys’ who were going to use those guns against ‘bad guys,’ and what we are seeing is, that has no basis in reality,” Rand said. “Concealed-carry permit holders, it seems, are a rather paranoid lot who regularly pull their guns on people, shoot people and escalate situations that might be a fistfight into a deadly situation.”
Rand admits that her opinion is not based on a definitive look at state data. National Rifle Association lobbyists have managed to bar the state from collecting or distributing anything more than the most basic information about permit holders. The Violence Policy Center does maintain its own database of shootings involving concealed-carry permit holders, based on what can be culled from news reports. All told, 516 people have been killed by shooters with concealed-carry permits, according to the center’s data.
Both Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis are a part of that victim list.
Still, Florida isn’t just one of 49 states with a concealed-carry law. It has been a sort of gun-policy laboratory for the NRA, said Hoover, of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
In 1987 Florida became the nation’s first “shall issue” state, meaning that law-enforcement officials are required to issue concealed-carry permits to almost everyone who requests one, Hoover said. (This is in contrast to a “may issue” state, where the applicant needs a reason to carry a gun.) People with felony convictions and those who have been committed to a mental hospital are the only exceptions. But smaller-scale criminals, stalkers and even people with known mental illnesses must be issued permits. The NRA pushed for the change, Hoover said.
“Stand Your Ground” Laws Don’t Deter Crime
Then, in 2005, the NRA convinced Florida’s legislators to change the state’s self-defense standard. When they did, not only did people in Florida become able to stand their ground in the face of danger, but state prosecutors also somehow had to prove that the shooter was not afraid in order to send the person to prison.
Today more than 30 states have adopted some version of the same “Stand your ground” law.
A 2012 Texas A&M University study found that “Stand your ground” laws in Florida and 19 other states didn’t deter violent crime. Instead, the study found a clear increase in homicides in those states — about 700 additional killings nationwide each year.
Janell Ross is a reporter in New York working on a forthcoming book about race, inequality and the recession. Follow her on Twitter.