People in the Tivoli Theater had long hoped and prayed for an end to gun violence and more sensible laws governing firearms.
If they didn’t care they wouldn’t have been at the showing this month of “3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets.” The sponsors, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, hoped the film and discussion would inspire people to successfully lobby the Missouri legislature to uphold Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of Senate Bill 656.
Unfortunately, the gun lobby won. The new law makes it legal for people to carry concealed firearms in public without a permit or training. It’s also the first stand your ground law passed since 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot to death February 2012 in Sanford, Fla.
All of the work that the moms group and other organizations had done since the Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting seemed to suddenly be reversed. Missouri like many other states has liberalize gun laws. Gun advocates foolishly think having more “good guys” with guns will make people safer. But with no training or needed checks to ensure people’s mental and emotional stability more guns put everyone in greater danger of gun violence.
The documentary covered Lucia McBath and her family in the shooting death of her only child, 17-year-old Jordan Davis. He was killed Nov. 23, 2012, by Michael Dunn at the Gates gas station in Jacksonville, Fla., in a dispute over the teen and his friends playing rap music loudly from the teens’ vehicle. The teens had stopped the day after Thanksgiving at the station for some chewing gum and cigarettes. Dunn and his girlfriend were there for a bottle of wine.
But Dunn had a gun and told police he fired at the vehicle Jordan and his friends were in because he thought the teens had a gun and he feared for his life. The black teens had no firearm.
The fear is in the implicit bias too many people have about black males. That surfaced in the panel discussion that followed. McBath said she and her family took part in the documentary to change the “hearts and minds” of Americans about guns and black males.
“What I do know is it is pricking the conscience of America,” said McBath, a national spokeswoman for the moms group and the faith and outreach leader for Everytown for Gun Safety. “It’s the story of a lot of black males in this country who do not have a voice. So many are not getting justice. We have to do this work.”
The shooting ripped apart McBath’s family. Jordan’s father, Ron Davis, said in the film that Trayvon’s father welcomed him to “a club none of us want to be in.”
The shooting also hurt Dunn, now serving life in prison without parole after two trials to get that conviction plus 90 years on attempted murder counts.
Guns have a ruinous effect on people. Kansas City Mayor Sly James was right when he said after the Republican-controlled legislature’s action: “This is a step in the wrong direction and will only make it more difficult to cut down on violent crime in our city.”
That is a statewide concern. Neither James nor anti-gun violence groups wants to take anyone’s guns away. They want common sense gun laws, which we currently don’t have.
Moms see their work as being like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. It started nearly 40 years ago, and changed the culture of the country from it being OK to drink and drive to people now seeing such behavior is disastrous and criminal.
The moms and other groups know they’re in a struggle against a formidable adversary, and they are new at this. But they’re unwilling to back down.
The November election is an opportunity to go after those lawmakers who voted the wrong way on the gun law. What’s clear is the struggle to make Missouri safer is just beginning.