Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Season 8 Episode 12
Aired on May 16, 2021
Main segment: Stand-your-ground laws in the United States
Other segments: 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis
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John: Hi there!
John: Hi there! Welcome to the show, still taking place in this blank void, which I’ve now been in so long I’m about to have to get it waxed and bleached again. It’s been a busy week, from a cyberattack forcing the shutdown of a top U.S. pipeline to vaccinations continuing to roll out, with cities and states incentivizing people to get them. Ohio, for instance, is offering a prize of up to $1 million for getting the vaccine, while New York City is offering free shake shack, which our mayor Bill de Blasio tried to sell in the least appetizing way imaginable.
Bill de Blasio: Just think of this when you think of vaccination… Mmm, vaccination… Mmm… I’m getting a very good feeling… About vaccination right this moment.
John: Nope. That’s a no, Bill. No to everything there. No to the uncomfortably loud chewing. And definitely no to the “mmm.” You sound like a sexually frustrated cow trying and failing to climax. And look, I’d love to talk for the rest of the show about how terrible it is to watch Bill de Blasio eat a burger. But the thing is, I can’t. Instead — if I may quote the riskiest thing you could possibly say on a first date — “let’s talk about Israel.” Because the biggest news of the week has obviously been this.
This morning, the worst violence in years between Israelis and Palestinians is intensifying. Israel’s military attacked new targets in Gaza, the Palestinian territory where militants are firing hundreds of rockets into Israel. And in the Israeli-occupied west bank, Palestinian protesters fought with police.
Since Monday, over 80 Palestinians have been killed and 7 Israelis in this tit-for-tat war.
John: Okay, there is a lot to unpack there, from the horror of the situation — which has escalated significantly since then — to the use of the phrase “tit-for-tat war” in a conflict where you just pointed out one side has suffered over ten times the casualties, something which imbalance at play here and how that often gets obscured by how we choose to talk about it. And look, if you’re not fluent in Middle East history, I know this can seem overwhelming — the latest chapter in a long story you haven’t read. So I’m not going to try and recap the history here, or indeed, propose a solution — although, interestingly, I do have one. Because someone with this accent always thinks they can fix things in the middle east. I redrew the map a bit, and I have a lot of misplaced confidence that it would work very well. But this week’s actually been a pretty good reminder that while some things are incredibly complex and require a great deal of context, others are just wrong. Take, for instance, one of the incidents that’s been a flashpoint — the planned expulsion of Palestinians who’ve lived in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood for generations. It’s currently tied up in the Israeli court system with the foreign ministry calling it a “real estate dispute.” But it’s worth knowing that the U.N.’s commissioner for human rights has said these expulsions would violate Israel’s obligations under international law. So it is not hard to see why sanitized terms like “evictions” or “property disputes” rankle those who live there.
You grew up in the neighborhood. Your family home is slated for eviction. What is the scene right now?
Well, I — thank you so much for having me. To start, it’s not really an eviction. It’s forced ethnic displacement, to be accurate. Eviction does not imply the hundreds and hundreds of heavily armed police and army and settlers colluding, blowing up your doors, throwing your children from your windows and using brute force to throw you out in the street and assaulting and arresting you should you resist. It doesn’t imply the grenades. It doesn’t imply the rubber-coated bullets.
John: Right. The threat of eviction is accurate only in a very superficial level — in that one day you live somewhere, the next day you don’t, and that change wasn’t your choice, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s like running a headline that says “Matt Gaetz reaches out to Florida youth.” Sure, not inaccurate. But it’s missing some pretty crucial details about the exact nature of that interaction. And look, it is true that militants from Palestinian groups like Hamas fired over a thousand rockets toward Israel this week, and that is reprehensible. But — and I realize this is the most load-bearing conjunction in history, “but” — the majority of those rockets thankfully didn’t reach their target, for a very clear reason.
The casualties and the damage would have been greater but for Israeli interceptor rockets, the so-called iron dome, which blew most of the incoming missiles to pieces.
John: Yeah, Israel has an so-called iron dome. And I know “what if we blew up the rockets with more rockets?” Sounds like something someone drunkenly wrote down on a napkin once, but it is a real military defense system that works. And I also know not all the rockets were shot down. Israeli civilians were killed this week, which is terrible. But the point is, this isn’t “tit for tat.” There is a massive imbalance when it comes to the two sides’ weaponry and capabilities. While most of the rockets aimed toward Israeli citizens this week were intercepted, Israel’s air strikes were not. They hit their targets, including a house in a refugee camp, a building housing the associated press and Al Jazeera, and this 13-story office and apartment building. And while Israel insisted that there were military targets in that building and that they’d destroyed it as humanely as possible, even warning people to evacuate beforehand, for the record, “destroying a civilian residence” sure seems like a war crime regardless of whether you send a courtesy heads-up text. And when dozens of people have seen their homes or livelihoods destroyed, it doesn’t really help that the Israeli military posted this triumphant meme showing the explosion and the rubble labeled “before” and “after.” “Look what we did! People lived there before, and now they can’t! You get it, right?” And obviously, in general, you should probably never meme a war crime. But if you absolutely have to, at least go with something less boring than the before/after template. Maybe use the drake meme or the disaster girl. There’s a building coming down, so checkmark already there, and it’s a little girl with eyes that scream “I don’t know what the Geneva Conventions are, and frankly, I don’t care.” The more I think about it, it works perfectly. The fact is, the citizens of Gaza don’t have an iron dome to protect them the way that the citizens of Israel do. It’s one of the many ways they’re at a significant disadvantage. Although an Israeli military spokesperson tried to push back on the idea there’s much of a discrepancy there.
Somebody on twitter said that the Palestinians don’t have an iron dome. I say yes, they have an iron dome. It’s called “don’t fire rockets at Israeli civilians and we won’t fire anything at Gaza.”
John: Yeah. But there are a couple of differences. “Iron dome,” for one, sounds much cooler, and also, it has the significant advantage of being an actual defense system that exists, unlike Gaza’s, which is mostly, “try not to be where the bombs are landing.” And it’s important to note here, the vast majority of the Palestinians in Gaza are not part of Hamas. They don’t get together and all decide to launch rockets. It’s not a fucking co-op board. But when Israel fires rockets at Gaza, it endangers all Palestinians there. Maybe “somebody on twitter” could point that out to that guy. To people in Gaza, it can seem like the only time anyone pays attention to what’s happening there is when Hamas is firing rockets, which is understandably very frustrating, because they’ve been living under a suffocating blockade for 14 years. And in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinians are essentially being governed by a form of apartheid, an assessment signed off on by both international and Israeli human rights groups. Life in gaza is hard even when they’re not being bombed. And the U.S. government has implicitly cosigned on the brutally hard line Israel has been taking. This guy [Donald Trump] basically gave Israel a green light to do anything it wanted for the last four years, and while Biden has had the opportunity to reset that relationship, his administration’s response this week has been deeply underwhelming, giving a generic statement that “Israel has a right to defend itself.” It’s the exact same line that Obama said and that Bush said before him. “Israel has a right to defend itself” is just something all presidents end up saying out loud at some point in office, like “my fellow Americans” or “what do you mean there are no aliens? This is some bullshit.” And look, it’s not that Israel doesn’t have the right to defend itself — it’s just that line cannot be used to excuse absolutely everything. Multiple children have been killed this week — eight in a single strike just yesterday. And the U.S. is heavily implicated here, not just by serving as Israel’s diplomatic shield at the U.N., but by constantly refusing to criticize the indefensible. Watch as just this week a state department spokesman desperately tried to equivocate when asked a pretty simple question.
I want to ask on east Jerusalem. I don’t want to harp on this either. But the Israelis killed 13 people just now, you know, including maybe five or six children. Do you condemn that? Do you condemn the killing of children?
I’m asking, do you condemn the killing of Palestinian children?
Obviously — and these reports are just emerging. And I understand — I was just speaking to the team. I understand we don’t have independent confirmation of facts on the ground yet, so I’m very hesitant to get into reports that are just emerging. Obviously, the deaths of civilians, be they Israeli or Palestinians, are something we would take very seriously.
John: Holy shit, he just asked you, “is child murder bad?” This really isn’t hard. Just say yes. The only scenario in which the answer to “is killing children wrong?” Gets tricky is if you’re a time traveler in 1890s Austria trying to explain why you just killed the Hitler family’s bouncing new baby boy. “I know how this looks, but trust me: it is complicated.” Look, there is a real tendency, particularly in America, to “both sides” this situation, and I’m not saying that there aren’t some areas where that’s warranted, but it’s important to recognize there are also areas where it’s simply not. Both sides are firing rockets, but one side has one of the most advanced militaries in the world. Both sides are suffering heartbreaking casualties, but one side is suffering them exponentially. And it’s not like the U.S. is operating from the moral high ground here. It’s obviously no stranger to drone-striking weddings and saying, “we were just trying to target enemy combatants.” This country has blood on its hands too. And look, if you believe Israel’s actions are warranted and proportionate this week, you’re welcome to try and make that argument. But we’ve got to start having this conversation honestly, and falling back on convenient sanitized terms like “real estate disputes” and “air strikes on militants” feels disingenuous when what you’re describing is “forcing people from the homes they’ve lived in for decades and killing civilians and children.” And again, none of this frees Hamas from responsibility. But Hamas doesn’t represent all Palestinians, just as what Israel is doing right now doesn’t represent all Israelis, or indeed Jewish people. Lots is complicated here, but some things are pretty simple. One side is suffering much more. And if America really wants to help, it might want to seriously consider changing its long-held position here. Because for decades, the backbone of America’s policy in the middle east has been that America is an unwavering friend to Israel. Which is a great thing to be, but at the end of the day, I would hope that a real friend will tell me when I’m being an asshole and definitely when I’m committing a fucking war crime. And now this.
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Announcer: And now, Ari Melber, rap genius. Will just not fucking stop.
Good evening, welcome to the Miami, as Will Smith would say.
To paraphrase ASAP Ferg, chasing, chasing, chasing, all this ballot chasing.
To paraphrase Lauryn Hill, Pruitt may think he is more powerful than two Cleopatras but he is still ready to flip it in the swamp on a dirty mattress.
There is a lyric for that, Margaret, which is Jay-Z said, mama always told me don’t argue with fools because people from a distance can’t see who is who.
I hate the new Kanye, the bad mood Kanye, the always rude Kanye, spaz in the news Kanye, I miss the old Kanye.
J electronica, when I look in the mirror, all I see is flaws.
Wasn’t Pusha T who said “I believe there’s a god above me. I’m just the god of everything else.”
That’s pretty powerful.
Wasn’t it Drake who said, the game is sold separate.
Another way to put it is, it started from the bite and now we are here.
You could put it that way, Ari, yeah– you could.
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John: Moving on. Our main story tonight concerns guns. Y’know, big pew-pew sticks that go boom-boom. Guns are everywhere in America, and I do mean everywhere.
How many guns do you think I can hide underneath a Hawaiian shirt? Of course, we got the gray man. Got my Berretta model 85. Feels like a Kahr armed ct45. Charter arms undercover .38 special. Grandpa Dave’s old Derringer. This is a Sccy CPX-2. Smith & Wesson 442. Oh, wait! One more. North American Arms Sidewinder .22 Magnum, just in case you need something small.
John: Wow. That is the second-most horrifying thing you can find coming at you in a Hawaiian shirt, right after John Lasseter on “national hug your boss day.” Although I will say, the reveal of the thumbelina-sized gun in his tommy Bahama pocket was an m. Night Shyamalan-worthy twist. Well done, tiny gun. You are both superfluous and surprising. But this story isn’t so much about guns themselves, as it is about one particular law that’s significantly expanded how they’re used. I’m talking about stand-your-ground laws. 30 States currently have them. And while they were initially pitched as a law-and-order measure to protect people forced to make difficult decisions in impossible life-or-death situations, in practice they can be invoked in incidents that really seem like they didn’t need to turn deadly.
The man who shot and killed a father of four at a Florissant bar is free tonight. So far, the gunman’s not facing charges for the shooting at Show-Me’s bar and grill on Wednesday afternoon.
The St. Louis county prosecutor says he needs more time to decide whether he’ll prosecute the gunman. That’s because Missouri’s stand-your-ground law is complicated. Scott Beary was killed when an argument over how heavy a dog could weigh became physical.
John: Holy shit. Not only is that a massive overreaction, it’s a pointless argument. Everyone knows dogs come in a wide array of sizes, from pocket-sized sweeties to slender kings to dense boys to droopy boys to big honkin’ boys to standard. That’s just veterinary science. Stand-your-ground laws gained notoriety nearly a decade ago when police claimed Florida’s law kept them from initially arresting George Zimmerman after he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. More recently, they’ve been floated as a potential defense for the killers of Ahmaud Arbery. And those are just two devastating examples of many. And don’t worry, we’re not going to show you the far-too-plentiful footage of people getting shot in public places tonight. Frankly, we’re just one senseless murder away from HBO max putting this show in the “endless parade of human misery” category alongside “Chernobyl” and “Entourage.” But given the prevalence of stand-your-ground laws — and the racial disparities in who they do, and crucially, don’t protect — we thought tonight it’d be worth looking at them. And let’s start with why, exactly, stand-your-ground laws were created. Because before they came along, most states already had self-defense laws on the books that traditionally included an element known as a “duty to retreat,” meaning you couldn’t resort to using deadly force in a confrontation if you could safely avoid or de-escalate it. Now, in many states, an exception to this rule was a so-called “castle doctrine,” a legal theory arguing that your home is your castle, and there, you can use deadly force much more broadly to protect yourself against intruders. The key thing stand-your-ground laws did was remove that “duty to retreat” from public places, basically extending the castle doctrine to anywhere you have a legal right to be. If you have a “reasonable fear” someone might hurt you, you have just as much right to shoot them in the street as you would if they were coming through the window of your house. And this change was largely thanks to the advocacy of one woman with a pretty compelling story.
Marion Hammer says she was walking to her car after a long day at the office when she was accosted by a car full of men. But she had a surprise for them.
I drew the gun up through the headlights of the car and I aimed at the driver. And somebody in the car screamed, “the bitch got a gun!”
John: “The bitch got a gun.” I honestly did not expect to hear that come out of that woman’s mouth. “Help yourself to some hard candies in the ceramic pig”? Absolutely. “Take off your boots so you don’t track anything onto the wall-to-wall carpeting”? Of course. But a curse word? In the daylight? Not in 10,000 contractions of the universe. But the important part of her story concerns what she claims a police chief said to her after she’d told her story publicly.
The police chief told me, “well, in that situation, if you’d called the police, we’d have arrested you, because you were the only one who employed the use of deadly force.” And that made me angry.
John: And that argument is the absolute core of the case for stand-your-ground laws — that Marion Hammer could have been arrested for simply defending herself. Now, she wasn’t, of course. That didn’t happen. But someone said she might have been, and that made her angry. But a few things. Because while everything about Marion Hammer seems like a sweet, everyday grandmother — right down to this feline glamour shot of her posted on a cat breeder’s website — you should know she’s also one the country’s most powerful gun lobbyists and a former president of the NRA. She’s personally helped push through dozens of gun laws in Florida alone, including a 1987 bill allowing conceal and carry permits — a law then duplicated, in some form, in almost every state, leading to more than 16 million Americans currently having licenses to carry concealed handguns. So that Margaritaville arsenal you saw earlier? You have this Dana Carvey character to thank for that situation. And while it’s not entirely relevant, Hammer’s advocacy wasn’t limited to guns. She also successfully killed a petition from 10,000 school children to change the Florida State bird to the scrub jay, a bird so friendly it apparently eats peanuts out of your hand. She objected because, in her words, “begging for food isn’t sweet,” “it’s lazy and it’s a welfare mentality.” And “they eat the eggs of other birds, that’s robbery and murder. I don’t think scrub jays can even sing.” And, okay, slow down there, Marion. Set aside “lazy,” “welfare mentality,” and “robbery and murder,” which is a lot to put on a bird. “Scrub jays can’t sing”? You might want to tell that to the scrub jay, Marion.
See? That’s fine. Is it great? No, it’s not great. It’s fine. That’s perfectly fine. Sure, the bird’s no Mariah, but it’s also no Roseanne. If that bird is anyone, it’s Fergie. You heard me. The scrub jay is Fergie. Tweet it, tok it, put it in your pocket. I’ve made a flimsy take and I’m proud of it. The point is, Marion Hammer played a big part in passing one of the country’s first stand-your-ground laws, in Florida. And the passage of that bill was immensely useful to the NRA because it became a model for laws they could then push around the country. Wayne Lapierre openly said at the time that Florida was the first step of a multi-state strategy, and they were going to use the tailwind to move from state legislature to state legislature. And they did. Just six years later, stand-your-ground laws had passed in 22 states. And while, following the killing of Trayvon Martin, they became increasingly controversial, states did not stop passing the laws — they just slightly slowed down. And Dennis Baxley, one of the state representatives who helped draft Florida’s Bill, was adamant that it should not be rolled back.
Dennis Baxley: We should stand beside law-abiding citizens. They should not be treated as a criminal if they’re doing something positive, which is stopping a violent act from occurring. There are gonna be times with close calls near the foul line — is it in or is it out? Who’s the assailant and who’s the victim?
John: Yeah, there are going to be some close calls. Is it in or is it out? Is it right or is it wrong? Is it self-defense or is it a murder provoked by a debate about how much a dog can weigh that turned physical? Who can say? Not that guy. And that is a little bit of the point here. The way most states’ stand-your-ground laws are constructed, they can make determining questions of guilt incredibly difficult. Because it all comes down to perceived fear — whether you legitimately saw someone as a threat — and that is definitionally subjective. What I’m afraid of — snakes, clowns, and Tilda Swinton — Jesus Christ! — might not be what you are. And it’s made even harder by the fact that often, the only other person who knows what happened in the incident is dead. And citing “stand your ground” as a legal defense has been extremely successful. In Florida alone, as of 2012, nearly 70% of people who claimed it as a defense had gone free. And advocates for these laws will tell you that’s a good thing — that before their introduction, good people were getting sent to jail all the time simply for defending themselves. But they never had much in the way of actual evidence for that beyond hypotheticals like Marion Hammer’s story about how someone said she could have gone to jail, but crucially, didn’t. So stand-your-ground laws weren’t really fixing a problem that needed solving. And the dangers they posed were pretty obvious to some from the start. When Georgia was debating a stand-your-ground law in 2006, a local station asked people in the street what they thought. And watch as their third interviewee realizes something the first two don’t.
I think it’ll lower crime, myself. ‘Cause a person’s gonna and twice about running up on a citizen if he thinks that citizen’s armed.
If you feel your life’s in danger, I think — I think it’s a good — a good law.
I think it’s gonna get a lot of people hurt.
Well, because when you walked up to me in a parking lot, I didn’t know who you were. And by this law, if I felt that you threatened me, I could have just shot you right now. You know? I can’t — that’s not right.
John: Yeah, that last guy is completely right. And in hindsight, maybe we shouldn’t have listened to the man in the “pride of the south” hat, that, by the way, features a portrait of Robert E. Lee over a confederate flag. That hat alone should have immediately disqualified anything he said. It’s like if Anthony Fauci wore this bucket hat that says “daddy” in the Shrek font. If he did, you’d be duty-bound to ignore anything he said. ‘Cause the fact is, we now know, overall, not only do stand-your-ground laws not deter crime, they may actually increase violence. In stand-your-ground states, homicides overall have increased nearly 11% since the laws’ enactment, whereas in states without those laws, the homicide rate went down by just over 2%. In fact, another study found such laws translate into an additional 600 homicides per year. And if you’re thinking, “well, come on, you can’t draw a straight line between these specific laws and people’s actions” — in some cases, you very much can, including one of the very first stand-your-ground cases in Texas, that of Joe Horn, who called 911 to report a burglary happening during the day at his next-door neighbor’s house.
I’ve got a shotgun. Do you want me to stop him?
Nope, don’t do that. Ain’t no property worth shooting somebody over, okay?
Joe horn sounds clearly upset.
I am not gonna let them get away with it. I can’t take a chance on getting killed over this, okay?
I’m gonna shoot.
But the 911 dispatcher warns horn to stay inside at least a dozen separate times.
An officer is coming out there. I don’t want you to go outside of that house.
Then horn, sounding angrier by the moment, cites the new Texas law.
I have a right to protect myself too, sir and you understand that.
Yes, you do. Yes, you do.
And the laws have been changed in this country since September the 1st and you know it and I know it.
John: Yeah, Joe Horn knew what the laws said, and despite the dispatcher warning him not to go outside 14 times, he did just that and killed two people, with autopsy reports later showing that both men appeared to have been shot in the back. He was explicitly told that property is not worth shooting people over. Which is obviously true. And certainly not your neighbor’s property. If I found out my neighbor shot and killed two people to save my ps5, I would move tomorrow. I know they’re hard to get your hands on, but Jesus Christ, calm down. I don’t want your blood console. And thanks to Texas’ new stand-your-ground laws, joe horn was never arrested. And ultimately, a grand jury declined to ever charge him with a crime. And not only was horn spared any consequences, he was later celebrated as a hero.
You had 911 on and you said, I’m gonna go stop them. You gotta get here, I’m gonna stop them. They said, no, no, no, don’t go out. You — you stopped them. They came towards you. You shot them, right?
Yes, sir. That’s correct. [Cheering]
John: Okay. Set aside that joe horn looks like what would happen if bobby hill grew up and sucked. The only time it’s appropriate to cheer after someone says “you shot them” is if you’re talking about the individual responsible for shooting this video of a family of bears in a swimming pool. Question: “you saw the bears, you had your phone ready, and you shot them, right?” Answer: “yes, sir, that’s correct.” Cue the fucking applause. No other circumstances. None. And if these laws on their own weren’t bad enough, there is now also a small cottage industry that’s cropped up around them selling specialized self-defense legal assistance. Most of these companies offer membership packages including everything from educational training videos to money for future legal defense and bond. The U.S. Concealed Carry Association insists it’s primarily concerned with teaching conflict avoidance, but it also gives you a wallet-sized card with tips on how to handle the call you make to police after you’ve shot someone, a handy feature their founder proudly touts to members.
This is my very own USCCA card. You can see my name on it, Tim Schmidt, right on the back of the card. It actually lists the exact instructions for what to say to a responding officer. Explain I was attacked, I feared for my life, and I had to defend myself.
John: Okay, setting aside the fact that looks like the most boring episode of “Sportscenter” imaginable, it feels important to point out they’ve essentially created a get out of jail free card. And that mixed with that man’s get out of jail free complexion is a pretty awful combination. And at least one of USCCA’s clients apparently took the advice on that card and ran with it:
Carlos Garcia’s ex-wife, Yaileen Ayala, paints him as a loving father who would do anything for his children. She believes he was intoxicated when he showed up to pick up his kids and got into an argument with the next-door neighbor, Nick Julian IV, over him playing loud music in the car. Julian armed himself with a handgun and shot Garcia, he claims in self-defense. Neighbors came out as Julian IV was on with 911.
911, What is your emergency?
Yes, ma’am, I just had a man attack me in my front yard. He attacked me and I had to use force. I was afraid for my life.
John: Yeah, it seems all you have to do is memorize a few key phrases and you too could be free to shoot with impunity. It’s basically Rosetta stone for justified homicides, because during his 911 call, Nick Julian made sure to say that he feared for his life three separate times and can also be heard referring to his wallet and saying to someone, “you just need to call them, give them the account number and my attorney.” And by the time the police arrived, he was already on the phone with the U.S. Concealed Carry Association setting up his legal defense before his victim had even been declared dead. And I know it might seem like these laws are just a free-for-all to shoot someone who scares you. But the truth is, there are some limits. And you probably know where this is going. Because while most shootings involve people of the same race, when cases involve shootings across racial lines, there are significant disparities in whose fear gets believed. Because the odds a white-on-black homicide was deemed justified by the police were 281% greater than the odds a white-on-white homicide was. And the expansion of stand-your-ground laws have appeared to worsen that disparity, a fact that I’m pretty sure would surprise exactly two of these three men. Not only that, but there are multiple examples where you would think, if ever a stand-your-ground law would apply, this would be the case — and yet, it didn’t. Take Siwatu-Salama Ra, who waved an unloaded, registered gun at a woman who she believed was trying to hit her and her young daughter with her car. But even though her state of Michigan has a stand-your-ground law, and even though that incident clearly falls under a reasonable definition of self-defense without it, and even though she didn’t even shoot the gun because, again, it was unloaded, she was sentenced to two years on the charge of using a gun to commit a felony. And while, after outcry, she was eventually able to plead to a lesser charge, that wasn’t before she’d spent a year in prison. And she was pregnant at the time and was forced to birth in shackles. So despite being introduced to increase safety, stand-your-ground laws actually increase violence. And given around four centuries of history, basing a law around “who’s afraid of who” was always going to be dangerous. It’s the reason Ohio state legislator Stephanie Howse stood up to oppose her state passing its stand-your-ground law back in 2018:
When your presence, when your being, your blackness causes fear — do you hear what I’m saying? I’ve been in these — these floors where I hear people tell me, “you know people scared of you.” It’s people I have never interacted with. What do you do in places and spaces when your presence — literally your face, your face causes someone to be fearful of you? This is a bad idea for people that look like me.
John: Exactly. That’s just one of the things that makes these laws so dangerous. They can exalt a white person’s fear over a black person’s life and are applied so unevenly that Siwatu-Salama Ra gave birth in shackles while this guy gets a fucking parade. Stand-your-ground laws have contributed to a society where vigilantes with guns feel they have to right to decide what is safety, who is a threat, and what the punishment should be. They’ve turbo-charged everything from road-rage incidents to pointless disputes over dog weights. So what can we do? Well, the answer is actually pretty simple. Don’t pass any more stand-your-ground laws and repeal the ones that do exist. They’re redundant solutions to a made-up problem, and they’re actively doing harm. In the past year, at least 14 bills have been introduced in five states to roll their stand-your-ground laws back. And if you live in a stand-your-ground state, especially one where those bills have been introduced, you should absolutely write to your representatives to urge them to repeal them as soon as possible. And while you’re at it, if you live in Florida — or, fuck it, any state — in the interests of annoying Marion hammer, maybe also demand they make your state bird the Florida scrub jay, so it can deliver its fergilicious victory song.
That’s a b-plus bird. That bird is fine. That’s our show. Thanks so much for watching. We’ll see you next week. Good night.