Kentucky legislators rushing to pass several laws backed by the gun lobby to further loosen restrictions on firearms in the state should pause to reflect on the latest developments from Florida.
Over the weekend, a jury in that state deadlocked over whether to convict Michael Dunn, 47, of Jacksonville, of shooting and killing an unarmed teenager he confronted in a parking lot over loud music.
Dunn invoked Florida’s infamous “Stand Your Ground” law, claiming he acted in self-defense after he saw Jordan Davis, 17, point a shotgun at him. While no gun was found and no one corroborated the defendant’s claim, it apparently was enough to plant doubt in some jurors who convicted him only of attempted murder for shooting at the teens with Jordan as they fled for their lives.
The decision comes just seven months after the notorious Florida case in which neighborhood vigilante George Zimmerman was acquitted of fatally shooting unarmed teen Trayvon Martin. Mr. Zimmerman claimed he shot the 17-year-old because he felt threatened and acted in self-defense.
The so-called “stand your ground” laws — aptly dubbed by critics as “shoot to kill” laws — were dreamed up by the National Rifle Association and pushed through a number of submissive state legislatures, including Kentucky’s.
After Kentucky passed its law in 2006, we had our own experience a year later when two men decided to resolve a parking dispute at a suburban Jefferson County shopping center by opening fire on each other. The shooting left one with severe brain injury; the other walked away with no criminal charges, thanks to Kentucky’s new law.
Now Kentucky lawmakers are considering more NRA measures to lift sane restrictions meant to limit firearm violence.
Two bills, Senate Bill 106 and House Bill 351, would allow victims of domestic violence with protective orders to carry concealed firearms, with permission from a judge. The law was not sought by the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association but gun lobby support has assured the bills hearings in the House and Senate and a place on the fast track.
Another nefarious measure, Senate Bill 60, would end the ban on concealed weapons in bars as long as those who carry aren’t drinking.
True, when it comes to weak gun laws, Kentucky is already in the same boat as Florida. But we don’t need to punch more holes in the bottom.