Florida in the limelight -- for all the wrong reasons

It ought to be enough.

 

The Florida legal system gets another shot at the limelight this week with the trial of Michael David Dunn, 47, in the shooting death of Jordan Davis, 17.

 

Davis was one of four teens in a Dodge Durango at a Jacksonville-area convenience store where Dunn and his fiancee had stopped in Dunn’s Black Jetta. Dunn, who was in Jacksonville for his son’s wedding, didn’t like their “thug music” and ordered them to turn it down.

 

One of the teens in the Durango turned down Chief Keef, according to Rolling Stone. But Jordan cranked the music back up. Words were exchanged, including curses. And when that wasn’t enough, Dunn pulled his Taurus PT 9 mm and fired at the Durango multiple times, killing Davis.

 

According to the Rolling Stone article published on April 25, Dunn told police who came to interview him, “They defied my orders. What was I supposed to do if they wouldn’t listen.”

 

Davis’ killing came after the Trayvon Martin shooting. The media and judicial freak show surrounding the Martin case should have been enough for Floridians to demand normality be restored to our state’s guns laws.

 

But it wasn’t.

 

A slew of statewide meetings to hear input on the “Stand Your Ground Law” revealed that no changes would be made to the law, which was a solution in search of a problem when it was originally made law.

 

“Stand Your Ground” removes the duty to retreat before claiming self-defense. Its application statewide has been, shall we say, mired in controversy.

 

Then last month came, Curtis Reeves Jr., 71, a former Tampa police captain and founder of the force’s SWAT team. He is charged with second-degree murder for pulling his .380 semi-automatic pistol and shooting a 43-year-old man who threw popcorn at him during the previews at a movie theater.

 

Chad Oulson was with his wife and texting their 22-month-old daughter’s caregiver. Oulson’s texting irritated Reeves, who left the theater to complain to management. Unsatisfied apparently with that, he returned, words and popcorn were exchanged.

 

Then Reeves shot Oulson in the chest.

 

And still it is not enough.

 

We are allowing the Sunshine State to become the punchline in a society that increasingly lets free-floating anger get the best of it.

 

I am the daughter of a lifelong hunter. Every man I knew as a child had guns. Not one of them ever took one of those guns along on a trip to a wedding. Or the movies. Guns, I was taught, exist for the purpose of killing people or animals.

 

There are other uses for them -- target shooting, skeet shooting -- but their purpose is to bring death efficiently. I was taught that that is the possible outcome any time you have one in your hands.

 

My father taught me to handle a .22 semi-automatic pistol. An ex gave me a pistol as a birthday present, which he wanted me to have while I was on assignment, driving alone into some deeply isolated pockets of West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky.

 

When my parents lived 45 minutes away from the nearest state police barracks, I was glad that they kept handguns in the house, because help would be a long time coming if they needed it in rural Pennsylvania.

 

In these Florida cases, though, using a gun wasn’t about being a long way from help. These cases have rage and loss of control at their core. And a fundamental lack of appreciation of -- or worse, indifference to -- what the consequences of pulling the trigger really are.

 

Of allowing all that free-floating anger to take over.

 

All you need to do is check the comments section of a media story or social media outlet to see that a whole lot of people are mad as hell and don’t feel like taking it anymore.

 

The thing is, when Paddy Chayefsky put those words in Peter Finch’s mouth, the character uttering them is a man losing his mind on live television. And his bosses are keeping him there because it makes great ratings.

 

It was satire. It was not meant to be adopted as a national manifesto. Or, as Florida is doing, raised to a perverse art form.

 

Too many people with handguns in their possession don’t even have enough respect for them to keep them properly secured.

 

Pensacola Police Chief Chip Simmons told me recently “people would be surprised at the number of guns stolen throughout the area because people keep guns in cars and then they leave the cars unlocked and so people reach in there and grab a gun that’s there. There is just a tremendous number of firearms that are seized.”

 

In those boxes are firearms confiscated by the Pensacola Police Department.

In those boxes are firearms confiscated by the Pensacola Police Department.

In fact he told me, in the evidence room are white evidence boxes stacked row upon row, each with a gun used in crimes. And he shared the photos to prove it.


Leaving your loaded gun in your unlocked car is not doing your part for the rule of law. It is incalculably dumb and irresponsible.


Guns are for adults with self-control. They are not for people looking to give orders to a bunch of teenagers whose music is loud.


They are not for using on a guy who throws popcorn at you. They are not there to give you the courage to follow a kid in a hoodie in the rain.


The world seems scary because we allow a culture of fear to exist. We allow the cloud of formless anger and threat to the “America we used to know” to inform our government, the news we consume and the decisions we make.


God gave us free will and the gift of critical thinking. For His sake, let us use both more often.


If we did, enough would be enough.