NRA, Where Art Thou?

Marissa Alexander says she fired a shot in self-defense. Why haven't gun advocates supported her?

Marissa Alexander (Flagler Live)
Marissa Alexander (Flagler Live)

(Special to The Root) — The National Rifle Association has strongly supported “Stand your ground” laws, which are in nearly 30 states, including Florida. But why has the group not been vocal about the Marissa Alexander case?

On Aug. 1, 2010, Alexander, of Jacksonville, Fla. — then a 31-year-old mother of three with a 9-day-old baby — fired a single warning shot into her ceiling after her husband, who had been arrested twice on domestic-battery charges, threatened her. He allegedly said, “If I can’t have you, nobody going to have you.” The shot hit no one.

She believed that she had the legal right to defend herself under Florida’s “Stand your ground” law — the same defense that George Zimmerman has claimed in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. But a judge decided otherwise, applying the state’s 10-20-Life law, under which an assault with a firearm carries a steep penalty. Her sentence? A mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison.

Alexander’s conviction has sparked national outrage, and rightly so. The Rev. Al Sharpton has pledged to work on the case. After calling for a Justice Department review of the “Stand your ground” defense and racial disparities in the law’s application in the Trayvon shooting, Rep. Corrine Brown denounced Florida’s handling of Alexander’s case, too. But the nation’s most famous gun-advocacy group — the NRA — has so far remained silent.

Historically, the NRA hasn’t exactly been shy about defending gun rights. It has opposed sentencing guidelines for gun traffickers, child-access-prevention requirements and a ban on the types of sniper rifles that can disable a plane. In Florida alone, the NRA Civil Rights Legal Defense Fund has provided aid in several gun-rights cases: Colin Bruley for possession of a firearm in the workplace, Michael Carr for being listed as a firearm owner and Richard Lander for being denied a permit to sell firearms in his home.

In fact, in the days following Trayvon’s death, the NRA’s lobbyists worked on Capitol Hill to promote the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act (S. 1288) to allow states to honor out-of-state concealed-weapons permits. In late March it began selling hoodies with pockets for concealed handguns on its online store.