Photo–The Rev. R.B. Holmes (c) joined a group of Baptist ministers from Jacksonville and across the nation in a plea to Florida Gov. Rick Scott to “repeal or repair” the state’s Stand Your Ground Law. He spoke at Jacksonville’s First Timothy Baptist Church, where he was once pastor.
By Rev. R. B. Holmes
The word of God says in Ecclesiastes chapter three and verse one, “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” I firmly believe in my heart that now is the right season for the legislature to repair or repeal the stand your ground law as we know it. As I have said on many occasions, this law has caused too much tension, adversity, and confusion among law enforcement officials, the civil rights community and our citizens.
I do not believe that when this law was passed Governor Jeb Bush and others who supported this law intended for this law to create this amount of community unrest and disunity. We all believe in self defense, we all believe that a citizen has the right to defend him or herself against an attacker, but we must all agree that there is something wrong and perhaps immoral when you can shoot first and ask questions later. I am not going to use this column to rehash the incidents and events that have created so much fuss, frustrations, dismay and discord because of the stand your ground law. What I am simply saying is that this law as written has outlived its usefulness.
It is now time for the leaders in the Florida legislature to take a non – bias and non – partisan review of the stand your ground law, to rewrite or rework this law. My friends, listen carefully to some of the prosecutors, sheriffs, state attorneys, judges, and listen to some of the jurors who literally are troubled by the stand your ground law; and most importantly listen to the Spirit of God. We must repair this law and do it now.
I have asked the Governor to study the recommendations that his task force submitted to him. Governor, as the Vice Chairman of your Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, please sir, seriously take our recommendations to study the stand your ground law. Governor Scott, if the study proves that this law has been unjustly and unfairly applied to certain segments of the population then do the right thing and fix the law. Let me be clear, studies have been done that illustrate and demonstrate some of the fallacies and biases surrounding the law.
I believe we have some good Republicans and Democrats who can rise above special interest groups and do what is in the best interest of all Floridians. I commend Governor Scott for appointing the special task force; he did not have to do this. Also, he did not have to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the facts surrounding Trayvon Martin’s death, the Governor did what was morally right and he deserves our respect for those important decisions. Moreover, the Governor must lead us now out of this wilderness and use his political influence to have an honest heart to heart dialogue with the legislature about the stand your ground law. Governor, as your friend, I am calling on you to revisit this law.
The Prayer and Justice March, that was held on March 10, 2014 was definitely needed. We needed to raise our voices in a nonviolent way to call upon political leaders to listen to the voices and footsteps of some of your constituents. Please don’t ignore our cause and call because you may not like some of the leaders in this movement. This really is not about them; this is about us, we the people of Florida are saying now is the time to act. Listen, I personally believe that Florida has the leaders who can resolve our own problems and we have the will power and courage to clean up our own state. Unfortunately, this has become bigger than Florida, this stand your ground law is a national issue and people of color and faith are simply saying “enough is enough.”
Also, let us not get it twisted; we will lift our collective voices to address the problem of black on black crime. I am keenly aware of the fact that each weekend or everyday Black people across America are killing each other and too many times our voices are silent. Conversely, many of us have been in the valley talking about this issue but the media has not listened to our cry. Let me be clear, one of the reasons that I am running for the presidency of the National Baptist Convention is to mobilize my denomination to become more active in addressing the problems of violence among Black people and the breakdown of the Black family. Let me make it abundantly clear, it is now time for us to repeal or repair stand your ground laws in Florida and across this country. When the crowd and cameras are gone, some of us will continue to fight the good the fight to build a better Florida and a more perfect union.
Mr. Governor, Mr. Speaker, and Mr. President of the Senate, I will reach out to meet with each of you to encourage you to be open – minded and find common ground to readdress the stand your ground law. I am praying that all groups may it be the NRA, NAACP, National Action Network, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and others will work together and not against each other to resolve this problem. In the words of the late Rodney King, “Can’t we all get along?” My brothers and sisters, let us come together and let us get to work and find the will to repair the stand your ground law. The season is now.
Rev. R. B. Holmes,