You may not have heard of Jordan Davis. After all, he lived in Florida, and was only seventeen years old. And he died a few days ago. But it was the way he died that tells you all you need to know about gun ownership, racial attitudes, and the law in today’s United States. It all happened the day after Thanksgiving, at a filling station somewhere in the sprawl of Jacksonville.
Davis was with three other young men in what those Stateside call an SUV. They had the sound system turned up – as do so many in the UK. It’s a personal thing. Then Michael Dunn and his girlfriend arrived on the scene: she got out of their car to visit a nearby convenience store, and Dunn, who admitted later that he had had a “couple [of] drinks”, took issue with the volume of the SUV’s sound system.
Dunn told the youths to turn it down – a strange thing to take issue on, given he and his partner had only stopped off for a few minutes – and they naturally ignored him. He then drew a handgun and pumped eight rounds into the SUV before calmly returning to his car, and driving off once his partner returned from her visit to the convenience store.
Six of the bullets missed their target. The other two struck and killed Jordan Davis. Dunn’s licence plate was noted by other motorists and he was picked up later. Then the fun really started: Dunn claimed that someone in the SUV had a shotgun and he was therefore acting in self-defence, citing Florida’s now notorious “Stand Your Ground” law. There was no shotgun. Dunn was charged with murder 2.
By now, just in case you hadn’t picked up on it, it should be clear that there is another snippet of information I had not included: Jordan Davis and his friends were all African Americans. Michael Dunn was an older white man. And the “Stand Your Ground” defence is the same one used by George Zimmerman after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin – another unarmed young African American.
At least this time the shooter was arrested immediately and jailed, unlike the Trayvon Martin case where Zimmerman remained at liberty until public outcry forced the hand of the law enforcement authorities. But it once again raises concerns that young black men are somehow perceived as a threat not for any other reason other than that they are young black men.
Combine this with the Second Amendment, and that so many US citizens feel that they have to carry weapons – Dunn was a gun collector – and you can see a potentially lethal mix of fear and firepower. Yet no politician dare do anything about it, such is the power of the gun lobby. So another life is cut short, with the perpetrator facing many years’ opportunity to repent at leisure.
So remember the name of Jordan Davis. But, sadly, he won’t be the last.