Standing on Shaky Ground

Yesterday, we marched. Yesterday, we chanted. And yesterday, we stood in solidarity against an unjust law. Convening in Tallahassee, Florida, we organized a massive rally in a state that is ground zero for the outrageous 'Stand Your Ground' laws that have propped up in dozens of states. Joined by the parents of both Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, as well as surviving family members of Emmett Till, we marched by the hundreds to the State Capitol. 'Stand Your Ground' is an affront to the safety and security of our children, and we must reform this egregious law before we keep the nation standing on shaky ground.

There are moments when we must pause and absorb our reality. Trayvon Martin was an unarmed teen when he was gunned down and killed while walking home from a convenient store. Jordan Davis was also an unarmed teenager who was killed while sitting in a vehicle at a gas station. Two young boys with their entire lives ahead of them who were killed, and their families left mourning. Trayvon Martin's killer was acquitted, and a jury failed to deliver a verdict in the most serious charge of murder against the man who shot and killed Jordan Davis. There is something seriously wrong with our humanity if we just accept this sort of injustice. We owe it to the families of Martin and Davis to do better; we owe it to ourselves to do more.

Self-defense laws, like any other laws, were designed to protect people in the face of danger. But when someone claims they feel threatened -- even if there is no actual threat -- and they have no obligation to retreat, that is a recipe for disaster. The way 'Stand Your Ground' is currently in effect, an individual's imagination can even be used to justify a murder. Just because you think you saw something, doesn't mean it exists. That is not reality, and that should never be tolerated on the books. 'Stand Your Ground' must be changed immediately, or else we will sadly see more and more innocents killed because of someone's imagination.

We chose Tallahassee as the location for our march yesterday because Florida gave birth to this reprehensible law in the first place. And just like it set the awful precedent for other states to follow with their own similar legislation, Florida must now take immediate steps to reform the law first. Elected officials in the state must show that they care more about protecting the lives of their constituents than allowing people's imaginations or perceptions of the world justify the taking of a life.

And that's what this is about -- people's lives. No longer can we ignore the reality that our children are dying. No longer can we close our eyes to the immense pain and suffering of these grieving parents, siblings and loved ones. No longer can we act as if this doesn't impact us. What happens in Florida has ramifications across the country. Legislators in that state must begin to reverse this policy because their current one is leaving too many victims without a voice to speak for them.

Yesterday, we came together in a show of solidarity. Also joining us was the family of Marissa Alexander, the young mother who was accused of firing a warning shot at her estranged husband and now faces up to 60 years in prison. When the same law can be used to sentence this woman to a potential 60 years behind bars, and can then allow another man to walk away after killing a teenager, we must make changes without delay. I'm pleased that so many felt the same immediacy and joined us during the march. Their voices resonated through the streets and to the halls of the state Capitol.

It's up to Florida's lawmakers now to decide if they want to keep their state and the country on shaky ground.