Shoot First Laws like Missouri’s Have Been Associated with Increases in Homicides and Instances of Racist Violence
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Missouri chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety grassroots network, released the following statement in response to the shooting of Ralph Yarl. Early reports state that Ralph Yarl, a Black teenager, was shot after mistakenly going to the wrong house to pick up his younger siblings. According to the family’s attorney, Ralph was unarmed, and shot twice by a white man – in his arm, and in the head – and is currently recovering. The shooter was arrested but then released according to Missouri rules of felony investigation.
“I’m so tired of this senseless, racist gun violence against our children,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, senior vice president for movement building at Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action. “In this country, our Black children are forced to contend with the fact that they are targets. There are no guarantees for their safety when they walk out the door. We don’t have to live like this and our children sure as hell shouldn’t be dying like this.”
“As a parent, nothing can prepare you for the unthinkable phone call saying that your child has been shot and is fighting for their life,” said Carthesa Dillard, a volunteer with the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action whose 19-year-old son was shot and killed in 2017, in addition to her brother being shot and killed in 2014 and another brother who was shot and wounded in 2020. “I’m heartbroken for Ralph, his loved ones, and the unshakeable trauma that this shooting has caused for our entire city. I’m standing alongside my community in grief as we call on our law enforcement to conduct a swift and transparent investigation.”
“Being young and Black in America shouldn’t be a death sentence, but time and time again, it’s Black children who are bearing the weight of our gun violence crisis — one that is enabled by dangerous laws that put Black and brown communities at disproportionate risk every single day,” said Shravani Khisti, a volunteer with Students Demand Action in Missouri. “We’re heartbroken, we’re furious, and we’re fed up. We will not accept a reality where our peers can be shot for ringing the wrong doorbell, and we’re calling on local authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of this tragedy.”
Communities across Kansas City mobilized throughout the weekend in calling for swift justice for Ralph Yarl and his family. Missouri has a dangerous Shoot First law in place. Shoot First laws, also known as Stand Your Ground, have been associated with an increase in homicides and with instances of racist gun violence. These policies exist in 29 states, and give people a license to kill, allowing them to use deadly force as a first option rather than the last and then claim self defense. The combination of Shoot First Laws, open carry of firearms, and paranoid extremism promoted by the gun lobby have created a vigilante gun culture that encourages people to seek out dangerous situations and emboldens them to preemptively shoot others even if doing so could have easily been avoided. More information about Shoot First Laws is available here.
In an average year, 1,351 people die by guns in Missouri. Gun violence costs the state $17.6 billion each year. More information about gun violence in Missouri here.