A License To Kill

— by CAP Action War Room

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:

  1. 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.
    License2Kill
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center forAmerican Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

The Swinging Electorate

Despite formidable efforts to disenfranchise African Americans in 2012, a larger percentage of black voters than white voters turned out at the polls to assure Obama’s victory on Election Day.

Marc MorialBy 

It’s official: African Americans are the nation’s most important swing state.

Last summer, I predicted that the African American vote would tip the scales in the 2012 election of Barack Obama. My organization, the National Urban League, foresaw a continuation of a trend that proved to be a decisive factor in Obama’s 2008 campaign.

The Census Bureau has now confirmed our analysis. Not only did the 2012 black vote make the difference in several key swing states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the biggest prize of all, Ohio, but black voters turned out a higher rate than white voters.

Since 1996, black voter turnout rates have risen 13 percentage points, and the number of blacks who voted in 2012 rose by about 1.7 million over 2008. This is even more remarkable given that overall voting among eligible citizens declined last year.

This boost in turnout also demonstrates that, in the face of a widespread voter suppression campaign, a record number of blacks heeded the National Urban League’s call to “Occupy the Vote” — a campaign that reached 10 million people through traditional and social media, phone banking, and grassroots and community outreach. In fact, all Census divisions where voting rates of blacks exceeded those of whites included states that introduced major voter suppression tactics in the year leading up to the election.

While the National Urban League doesn’t endorse individual candidates, we do encourage civic engagement, and our affiliates have always played leading roles in voter registration drives. That’s why we are also pleased that African Americans registered in record numbers last year. The registration rate for blacks rose from 69.7 percent in 2008 to 73.1 percent in 2012 — the highest registration rate ever recorded.

In Ohio, where Obama won 96 percent of the African-American vote, the black registration rate was 74.4 percent. In North Carolina, a state he lost this time around, African-American registration increased from 71 percent in 2008 to 85 percent in 2012 with 80.2 percent of eligible black voters going to the polls, up from 68.1 percent four years ago.

The increase in black voter participation is a turning point for several reasons.

First, it’s clear that Mitt Romney would have eked out a victory in 2012 if voters had turned out at 2004 levels. White turnout was higher and black turnout was lower in that presidential election.

Second, due to an increase in overall minority voting, people of color will be wielding even more electoral clout in the coming years. According to the demographer William Frey, “by 2024, their vote will be essential to victory.”

Third, this demographic shift is prodding both major political parties to increase their outreach and appeal to minority voters and to reassess the impact their policies are having on those communities.

As the Associated Press put it, “The findings represent a tipping point for blacks, who for much of American history were disenfranchised and then effectively barred from voting until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.”

There’s no doubt that the opportunity to re-elect America’s first black president contributed to record black turnout last year. But, no matter who is on the ballot in 2014 and 2016, we must continue to exercise our voice and Occupy the Vote.


Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League and the former mayor of New Orleans. http://www.nul.org
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

Our Biggest Terrorist Threat

Senate inaction on guns was inexcusable in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing.

— by Marc Morial

Marc Morial

Acts of terror like the ones committed at the Boston Marathon are reprehensible and lack moral or logical explanation. They rock us to our core.

They also unite us in common purpose. Victims and their families seem to become our own loved ones. We want to ease their pain. We want to do something to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Our togetherness as a nation is often most evident when something happens that’s meant to break us.

Nearly 12 years after the 9/11 attacks, terrorism in our homeland still seems a nearly impossible reality — one that none of us want to accept. Still, communities across America are terrorized each day. But rarely do these victims and their families receive national media attention, or better yet, our collective attention.

Every year, 100,000 people are shot or killed with a gun in America. Every day, these acts of terror are carried out in homes, on playgrounds, schoolyards, neighborhood streets, even in houses of worship — turning spaces that should represent peace and sanctuary into places that elicit danger and fear.

Just two days after the Boston Marathon bombing, the Senate had an opportunity to curb another kind of terror facing our nation by taking modest steps toward keeping guns out of the wrong hands. Yet, it voted down a sensible gun background check bill. Never mind that 90 percent of Americans and 74 percent of National Rifle Association members support universal background checks. It didn’t even matter that a majority of senators (54-46) actually voted in favor of the bill. Because of the Senate’s 60-vote majority rule, along with the distortions and political threats from NRA leaders, the bill went down in defeat.

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President Barack Obama called it “a shameful day in Washington.” Former lawmaker and gun violence survivor, Gabrielle Giffords, added, “I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep our children safe.”

We share her determination. Whether in Newtown or scores of other communities across the nation, one point is clear: Guns in the wrong hands can be weapons of mass destruction as deadly as a terrorist’s bomb.

Where, we wonder, is the unified purpose in Congress to work toward firearm safety to address the reign of gun-related terror devastating so many of our neighborhoods?

Let’s be clear: This issue is not about gun confiscation, nor is it an attack on anyone’s rights. We know that this step is not a cure-all for the plague of gun violence in America. But, it is at least a first step towards doing all we can to ensure the safety of our citizens.

The city of Boston and its people deserve all the support and attention they have received in the wake of this horrific tragedy. I just hope that we can elevate our sense of unity, urgency and purpose to do what is right for the countless of Americans whose lives have been ended or forever changed by gun violence. Let’s not forget, in addition to killing with homemade bombs, the Boston terrorists also used guns in killing MIT police officer Sean Collier and seriously wounding Massachusetts Bay transit officer Richard H. Donohue.

As we pray for the dead, the wounded survivors, and their loved ones, we urge the nation to unite against terror — including gun violence — everywhere. We must all heed the words of eight-year-old Martin Richard, the boy who perished in the Boston Marathon bombing: “No more hurting people. Peace.”


Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League and the former mayor of New Orleans. www.nul.org  Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)