JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Florida chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots network, released the following statements in response to a hate-motivated shooting yesterday at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida. While details are still emerging, reports confirm that three people were shot and killed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and Glock handgun, and that the shooting was a racist act of violence targeting Black people in the community.
“My heart is broken. I grieve for everyone who was senselessly killed, for their families, for the Jacksonville community, and for all Black people across this country who are feeling the pain of this tragedy in their soul,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, executive director of Moms Demand Action. “Every western democracy has extremists, but only in America do extremists have far too easy access to far too deadly weapons. Racism, white supremacy, and gun violence target Black people, and I pray that this heinous act will serve as a stark reminder of the work that is needed to make America safer. White supremacy demands a recalibration of the fabric of America, and prioritizing easy access to guns is an immediate way to address the deadliness of this hate.”
“Here in Jacksonville, we are united in our grief and anger for the victims, their families and friends of this despicable act of violence,” said Katie Hathaway, a volunteer with the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action. “All of us deserve to feel safe at school or the store. But in Florida, where extremist lawmakers push hateful rhetoric and couple it with a guns everywhere, for anyone, no questions asked agenda, more gun violence is an inevitable and devastating conclusion. We will continue to honor and stand with survivors until our state is safe for everyone who lives here – no matter our zip code or the color of our skin.”
“As a survivor of gun violence and a Black girl growing up and going to school in the state of Florida, yesterday’s racist murder of Black shoppers near EWU hurts tenfold more,” said D’arin Floyd-Baldwin, a volunteer leader with the Florida chapter of Students Demand Action. “How much clearer can it be? Hate plus guns is a fatal combination, and it snowballs into tragedy after tragedy when shooters can access guns so easily. Extremist politicians want us to believe this is normal, but it’s not. As I stand on the shoulders of decades of advocacy that has come from other Black survivors, I refuse to accept that this is the best we get. I won’t stop fighting for a safer, more equitable Florida and America.”
The shooter, clad in tactical gear, appears to have initially attempted to access the nearby Edward Waters University (EWU), a historically Black university, but was turned away by campus security. He then traveled a few blocks over to a nearby Dollar General store where, armed with a Glock handgun and an AR-15 style rifle with swastikas on it, the gunman opened fire outside the store and then again inside, fatally shooting the three victims before killing himself. Written diatribes left by the shooter indicate he chose the date for the shooting as it marked five years since a gunman shot and killed two people at a video game tournament in Jacksonville.
The shooting at the Dollar General store took place within hours of the 60th anniversary of March on Washington in Washington D.C., where Everytown stood in solidarity with civil rights leaders, partner organizations and thousands of advocates from across the country to mark 60 years since Dr. King’s seminal speech and to highlight the ongoing systemic disinvestment and oppression of people of color in this country – and that includes the inescapable reality of hate-motivated gun violence against Black people.
The shooter’s history and access to guns is still being examined by police, but it is believed that the shooter was the subject of a 2017 law enforcement call under the state’s Baker Act, the results of which may have made him ineligible to purchase firearms. Earlier this year, Governor Ron DeSantis’s administration declined to apply for over $15 million in guaranteed federal money made available by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to help implement Florida’s Risk Protection Order law and other crisis intervention programs.
And in an average year in Florida, 2,989 people die by guns and 5,267 people are wounded. Gun violence costs Florida $40.3 billion each year. More information on gun violence in Florida is available here.