As Florida Governor, Jeb Bush Pioneered The Nation’s First “Stand Your Ground” Law
This Friday, Jeb Bush is scheduled to address the National Urban League, one of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organizations. He is going to be on the hot seat – and deservedly so. As Governor of Florida, Jeb worked hand in hand with the NRA to pioneer the nation’s first Stand Your Ground law, brought to national attention when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. The results, detailed in a new CAP Action report, have been devastating. Here are a few of the findings outlined in the report:
Since the passage of the law, Florida’s gun homicide rate jumped above the national average – and has stayed there. In the 6 years prior to the law‘s passage, the rate of gun homicides in Florida was 3.7 per 100,000 residents, below the national average rate of 4 murders per 100,000 residents. After Stand Your Ground was passed in the state, the average gun homicide rate jumped to more than 4.5 murders per 100,000 residents in Florida while going down nationwide. In the two years following the enactment of the Stand Your Ground law, the number of gun-related homicides in Florida increased by more than 200 cases.
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law appears to have a disparate impact on black communities. A study by the Tampa Bay Times of nearly 200 Stand Your Ground cases in Florida found that defendants seeking to avoid criminal liability for a homicide by mounting a Stand Your Ground defense were significantly more likely to be successful if they killed a black victim than a white victim. In fact, from 2005 to 2012, defendants who raised a Stand Your Ground defense in Florida were 24 percent more likely to avoid criminal liability for a homicide if they killed a black victim.
The impacts of Stand Your Ground have translated to an additional 600 homicides per year across the country. Within one year of Gov. Bush’s signing, 21 other states had introduced the legislation and 13 had enacted expanded self-defense laws. A 2012 study by researchers at Texas A&M University found that Stand Your Ground laws led to more homicides: States that enacted such laws saw an 8 percent increase in homicides, which translated to an additional 600 homicides per year across all states with these laws. National Urban League’s own 2013 study found that in states that enacted Stand Your Ground laws between 2005 and 2007, the rate of justifiable homicides increased by 53 percent.
A new op-ed drawn from CAP Action’s report and written by Ben Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP, highlights how Florida’s Stand Your Ground law poses an even larger threat in Florida because the states gun laws are so weak. In fact Florida’s gun laws remain so lax that George Zimmerman, who in addition to shooting and killing Trayvon Martin, was arrested for assaulting a police officer, the subject of a domestic violence restraining order, arrested 3 times for domestic violence, and threatened to kill a man during a road rage incident, is still permitted carry a gun in Florida.
BOTTOM LINE: America has Jeb Bush to thank for Stand Your Ground. And as research continues to suggest, America has this NRA-backed law to thank for hundreds more gun homicides every year and a disproportionate impact on communities of color.
The Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality of Republican Prescriptions for the Economy
In recent decades, dramatic changes have squeezed the middle class, making it harder and harder for middle-class families to feel economically secure. In response to these changes, GOP candidates have shifted their rhetoric and begun decrying stagnant wages, inequality, and rising middle class costs. For example, in his campaign launch speech Jeb Bush said we need to “make opportunity common again.” Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio introduced his tax plan in an op-ed with Sen. Mike Lee saying, “Too many Americans believe the American dream is slipping away.”
But a new report from CAP Action finds that despite its new rhetorical shift, the GOP continues to propose policies that would undercut economic security for working- and middle-class families. Even as Republican candidates talk about restoring the American dream and expanding opportunity to all Americans, they continue to embrace the same, failed policies that have led to middle class Americans being squeezed by rising costs and stagnant wages.
Here are a few of the key facts on how the middle class is at risk and how Republican policies would only make things worse:
Republicans continue to support tax policies that favor the wealthy but do little for middle class families. Many of the GOP candidates favor eliminating capital gains taxes, which would do nothing for middle-class Americans. Middle-class families receive very little income from capital gains and dividends: Only 6 percent of market incomes for households in the middle quintile come from business income, capital income, and realized capital gains. The top 1 percent of households, on the other hand, receive more than half of their incomes from these sources. Eliminating capital gains taxes is nothing more than a massive tax cut for the wealthiest few.
Republican governors are blocking bills that help families juggle the demands of work and home.Of the 12 states with laws preempting localities from taking actions like increasing the minimum wage or offering paid sick leave, 11 were passed by a GOP governor and legislature since 2011. In particular, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a preemption bill that nullified Milwaukee’s paid-sick leave law which would have helped 120,000 Milwaukeeans–or 47 percent of the city’s private sector workforce.
Despite the rhetoric, GOP economic policies favor the wealthy. In 2014, 41 Republican senators with an average net worth of $8.1 million, including several eventual presidential candidates, voted against giving low-income Americans a $6,000 raise.
Instead of investing in working Americans, Republicans have been slashing key pillars of opportunity, such as education. More higher education cuts have occurred under Republican leadership than under Democrats. Between 2007 and 2014, real state funding for public education grew under Democrats and fell 10 percent in states led by Republicans. This also led to higher tuition increases.
Republicans still oppose a minimum wage. If a Republican president spent two terms in office continuing to block a minimum wage increase, like each of their positions today, the value of the minimum wage would fall below $6 in today’s dollars, lowest in 70 years.
BOTTOM LINE: Decades of failed, trickle-down economic policies have left middle-class Americans struggling. Disguising old, top-down policies with new rhetoric is as disingenuous as it is dangerous.
In all of these issues, the Department of Justice plays a vital role. And its head, as the top law enforcement officer in the United States, leads the way. Ms. Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, is a highly qualified nominee for the position. While some Republicans used her confirmation hearing as a chance to voice their out-of-touch views on President Obama’s recent immigration action or the departing Attorney General, she excelled in answering questions and impressing a bipartisan group of Senators.
So what is the hold up? Here are 5 reasons to quit delaying and confirm Loretta Lynch as Attorney General.
She is a proven, well-qualified leader. Lynch has a proven record of prosecuting hate crimes and corruption, and a reputation of being committed to protecting human rights and ensuring equal opportunity.
She would make history. Loretta Lynch would make history by being the first African-American woman to become Attorney General. What better way for the Senate to celebrate Women’s History Month and the legacy of Selma than to confirm Lynch.
Bonus: The movie Goodfellas was based on one of Loretta Lynch’s cases. She’s got what it takes.
BOTTOM LINE: When issues of racial inequality, voting rights, criminal justice, and more are front and center in our nation’s dialogue, it is no time to be playing games with our nation’s top law enforcement officer. Loretta Lynch has proven herself, and the Senate has had ample time to deliberate. Now its time to bring the nomination to the floor, and vote to confirm.
The Fight For Equal Rights For LGBT Americans Does Not End At Marriage
We’ve been talking a lot about a certain Supreme Court case over the past month, with the Affordable Care Act under attack for a second time. Next up, the Supreme Court will hear another important case in April on whether to legalize marriage for committed same-sex couples throughout the country. While proponents of equality are hopeful for a historic decision to finally ensure marriage equality nationwide, regardless of the outcome, the fight for LGBT equal rights will not end in June. One aspect of that fight is securing basic non-discrimination protections for the LGBT community.
BOTTOM LINE: While the Supreme Court may soon rightly decide that marriage equality is constitutional, the fight for fairness and full equality will not be over this summer. Congress and the States need to act to ensure equal protections for LGBT Americans.
The November jobs report was released today, and it brought a lot of good news. The U.S. economy added 321,000 jobs in November, well exceeding analysts’ expectations of 230,000. The unemployment rate remained at 5.8 percent. But the report also offers a reminder of the struggles that many working Americans continue to feel in the sluggish recovery.
The monthly jobs report doesn’t provide a comprehensive view of how our economy is doing, but it does offer an important glimpse into some of the macro employment and wage trends that reflect whether the economy is growing, and who is sharing in that growth. Here are five charts that show what to be happy about, and why we need to continue to work so that everyone has a chance for economic opportunity and prosperity.