BRUNSWICK — The Georgia chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots networks, released the following statements in response to the jury’s verdict in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was jogging through a Brunswick, Georgia, neighborhood when the defendants shot and killed him.
“No verdict can bring Ahmaud Arbery back, but the jury provided accountability in this case,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “This fight doesn’t stop here, because across the country, ‘Stand Your Ground’ or ‘Shoot First’ laws empower people to create dangerous situations and then use their victim’s self-defense to justify killing them. As long as these deadly and racist laws are still on the books, our work continues.”
“Today’s verdict is a small but important step, and we hope this measure of accountability brings some comfort and closure to Ahmaud’s family and community,” said LaTayla Billingslea, a member of the Students Demand Action National Advisory Board from Georgia and a member of the Everytown Survivor Network whose cousin, Jasmine, was shot and killed by someone who asserted a ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense. “We’ll honor Ahmaud’s life with action to repeal deadly, racist ‘Shoot First’ laws wherever they exist – and that starts here in Georgia, where it stopped my family from receiving the justice we deserved.”
The 12-person jury which decided the case was composed of 11 white jurors and 1 Black juror, a composition that does not reflect the county’s population, which is more than 25% Black. Judge Timothy Walmsley barred evidence of how the defendants allegedly used racial slurs – including immediately after shooting Ahmaud Arbery.
This past legislative session, lawmakers in Georgia repealed the state’s Civil War-era citizen’s arrest law, which was historically used to publicly dehumanize escaped enslaved people and justify the lynching of Black people. Lawmakers, however, didn’t even schedule hearings for bills that would repeal Georgia’s so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ or ‘Shoot First’ law, which allows people to shoot first and ask questions later, even when they could safely remove themselves from the situation. The laws are associated with more than 150 additional gun deaths nationally every month. In Florida, studies show that homicide rates increased 24 to 45% after the law was enacted in 2005. Additionally, 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. Mayors across Georgia have called on the state to repeal this deadly law.
More information about ‘Shoot First’ laws is available here.