New Nationwide Task Force with State Legislators from Across the Country Will Work to Combat Shoot First Laws and Double Down on National Effort to Restore Self-Defense Laws in States
Wednesday, February 23 Marked Two Years Since the Murder of Ahmaud Arbery; Saturday, February 26 Marks 10 Years Since the Murder of Trayvon Martin
NEW YORK — Today, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action announced a new nationwide task force of state legislators to combat Shoot First laws and double down on efforts to restore self-defense laws in states.
The task force currently has more than 20 members from more than 19 states, including Florida Sen. Shev Jones – the lead sponsor of Florida’s bill to restore self-defense, former Moms Demand Action volunteer turned lawmaker Kansas State Rep. JoElla Hoye, Georgia Sen. Tonya Anderson, the Chairwoman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus and the sponsor of the bill to repeal Shoot First in Georgia, and more. The task force was rolled out during a virtual press conference earlier today with U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, Florida State Senator Shev Jones and Tonnette S. Graham, Policy Director for the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, alongside Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action and Monisha Henley, Senior Director of State Government Affairs at Everytown.
“Shoot First laws aren’t about standing your ground when threatened, they’re about making murder legal,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “They’re about empowering people with racist or vigilante views to shoot first and ask questions later. And it’s time we reframe the debate so Americans can decide if a Shoot First country is the kind they want to live in.”
“Trayvon Martin’s murder 10 years ago was one of the first times the world witnessed the lawlessness of Shoot First laws,” said Monisha Henley, Senior Director of State Governmemt Affairs at Everytown. “Shoot First laws make murder legal – letting people use deadly force as the first option rather than the last, even when they can clearly and safely walk away. They put Black people and people of color at further risk of racist violence or violence fueled by implicit bias and unconscious fear. That’s why it’s more important than ever to double down on efforts to combat Shoot First laws.”
“This month alone, we commemorate the lives of both Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery, I solemnly celebrate the birthday of my son, and as a nation we remember the lives of 17 people gunned down inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” said U.S. Rep. LucyMcBath. “Laws like ‘Stand Your Ground’ or ‘Shoot First Laws’ give people like Jordan’s killer the idea that you can shoot first and ask questions later. Law enforcement leaders, people of faith, and doctors are sick and tired of the death these gun laws bring, and I want to thank Everytown, Moms Demand Action, and Students Demand Action for helping put this task force together. Thank you to everyone who does the work every day to keep our families safe.”
“The gun lobby’s encouragement of Shoot First laws has emboldened people to seek out confrontations while armed, use violence, and then claim self defense,” said Florida State Senator Shev Jones. “We are going to continue to stand up to the gun lobby and to legislators who do not believe these laws are harmful to our communities. I believe when my community thrives, all communities thrive.”
In the coming months, members of the task force will:
- Meet together with experts to understand and highlight the impacts of Shoot First Laws from both a national and regional perspective;
- Be a leading voice in their state on Shoot First laws to educate and garner support from colleagues to restore self-defense laws;
- And identify new opportunities to restore self-defense laws in their state – whether that means repealing Shoot First policies, reforming laws to ensure aggressors and gun extremists cannot claim self defense, or preventing the expansion of Shoot First Laws to additional states.
Research now shows that Shoot First laws have resulted in 700 additional gun deaths every year across the country. In Shoot First states, homicides in which white shooters kill Black victims are deemed justifiable five times more frequently than when the situation is reversed. States with weak gun laws, especially those with Shoot First laws on the books, have higher rates of gun deaths. More information about Shoot First laws is available here.