Was the decision to go ‘gunless’ in the ‘Gunshine State’ fatal?
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of stories framing the life of James Roland Jackson, III, known as “Jimmy” to his family.
BY PENNY DICKERSON
SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
As reported in this series, 26-year-old Jimmy Jackson was shot on June 2, 2012, at the Silver Fox nightclub while working part time as road manager for rap artist Young Cash, a protégé of popular Florida-based rapper Flo Rida.
The former Florida A&M University business student died 10 days later at Shands Hospital, leaving his supportive family shocked and grieving. His five-year-old daughter Denia no longer has a daddy to tuck her in at night. He won’t cheer at her college graduation, or walk her down the aisle on her wedding day.
Jacksonville Detective Bobbie Bowers, the lead homicide investigator, is calling Jackson’s tragic shooting a random robbery.
Two Black males wearing dark clothing approached Jackson in a pitch-dark parking lot at close to 4 a.m.
He complied with their request for money, but assailants still pumped four bullets into his 6’1” athletic frame as he walked away.
Older brother Anthony Rozier said that Jackson refused to carry a concealed weapon, as is possible under Florida’s liberal ‘concealed carry’ law.
“I don’t need a gun, cause I ain’t gon’ shoot nobody,” Jackson told Rozier.
William “Bill” Burns holds a monthly raffle to win an AR-15 rifle. Proceeds benefit his nonprofit organization “Dream Hunts For Heroes.”
(PHOTOS COURTESY OF PENNY DICKERSON/FLORIDA COURIER)
Millions with guns
There’s no proof that Jackson would still be alive if he had been carrying a gun. But a record number of citizens do plan to shoot whenever necessary. One of every 17 Floridians – more than a million people just in Florida alone – has a license to carry a concealed firearm.
While homicide rates are down, Florida is home to the largest number of gun-carrying permits in the country, giving the peninsula an unsavory moniker: “the Gunshine State.”
Jacksonville has its own Gun Crime Unit, and for good reason. As reported by the United States Department of Justice based on 2011 statistics, the Middle District of Florida, the federal court district were Jacksonville is located, ranks third in the nation for the number of federal prosecutions of firearms-related cases.
In conjunction with Project Safe Neighborhood, a community-based initiative, the Gun Crime Unit meets once a week to discuss the prosecution of gun crimes and includes detectives with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, special agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), as well as prosecutors from the State Attorney’s Office.
Easy to get
Many Floridians evidently believe peril is imminent, and they are buying guns. And all you need is money to buy a gun in Florida.
According to a Feb. 27 cover story in Folio Weekly, “No permits, license or identification card is required to buy or possess firearms and ammunition here, unlike in some other states.” (You do need a license to conceal a gun and carry it.)
Ammunition can be purchased for cash at local gun shows. Firearm responsibility requires a permit application.
The availability of guns is America’s most contentious new debate. From seasoned politicians to neighborhood barbershops hosting Saturday morning court, everyone is weighing in on access to firearms, who has a right to own, and the rampant gun violence sweeping the nation.
A movie theater massacre and last year’s Sandy Hook elementary killing spree has created a nation in fear and rendered public places unsafe.
First gun at 15
Gun shows are held almost every weekend in a Florida city and a large populous of enthusiasts support the culture. Luke Wyatt purchased close to $280 worth of ammunition at a recent Jacksonville gun show.
The Florida State Community College student works part time at Longhorn Steakhouse and uses his earnings to support his hobby.
“I own three guns, a 30.06 long-range rifle, a tactical AR-22, and have access to my parents’ 9mm pistol,” Wyatt boasted.
A revolver like these on sale at a Jacksonville gun show could be similar to the firearm Jimmy’s shooter used.
Guns and target shooting has always been a part of Wyatt’s family life. He was given his first gun at age 15 and is an avid hunter of game.
The use of guns is racially disparate. According to a March 22 feature in the Washington Post, “Gun deaths are shaped by race in America. Whites are far more likely to shoot themselves, and African-Americans are far more likely to be shot by someone else.”
What’s consistent is that thousands of people are killed – or are killing themselves – with guns.
The Florida-based Trayvon Martin case has intensified the racial debate. Martin was shot and killed last February in Sanford by George Zimmerman, an off-duty neighborhood watchman. The shooter alleged Martin’s behavior was suspicious – he was walking slowly in the rain and wearing a hoodie.
Michael David Dunn, a White male, pulled up next to the teens and asked them to turn their loud music down. Following a verbal dispute, Dunn claimed he saw a shotgun in their car and sprayed seven shots into the parked SUV. Davis died on the scene; police reported the teens had no gun.
These murders have sparked a national outcry against gun violence; race is a subtext because White men killed both Martin and Dunn.
Jimmy Jackson’s death was different. The shooters were Black. As mass shootings prompt vigils and flags flown at half-mast, mainstream media attention to “Black-on-Black” crime is practically nonexistent.
‘Not a race problem’
David Frum, contributing editor at Newsweek offered the following in a CNN report titled, “U.S. gun problem is not a race problem.’’
“The typical murder has one victim, not many. The typical murder is committed with a handgun, not a rifle. And in the typical murder, both the perpetrator and the victim are young black men. Blacks are six times as likely as Whites to be the victim of a homicide. Blacks are seven times as likely to commit a homicide.”
“It’s a socioeconomic issue that affects our city, state, and nation,” said Rumlin. “We have got to produce better-educated people, produce more jobs, and develop better programs for repeat offenders who are released and return to our communities.”
He additionally calls on parents to do a better job and take responsibility for their children’s actions before tragedy strikes.
“Too many guns are in the wrong hands,” declared Rumlin.
Gundy stated that with “a present mean legislative body and more than 225 federally licensed gun dealers in a state, it creates an environment where people become predators on each other – both Black and White.’’
The community activist doesn’t offer it as an excuse but insists that the current gun culture has been created by society and cites the previous methodology of President Bill Clinton’s as a positive example.
The Clinton administration tracked every gun used in a crime and, statistically, as it was then, Florida tops the list.
“When all of your Black fathers are in jail and there are no jobs, the problem transcends mere socioeconomic and it’s deeper than parents serving as a solution,” Gundy added. “The highest population of Blacks in Florida is in Duval County and 72 percent of all babies born in a Black family are without a father. It becomes a mental health and psychological (issue) too.”
Crimes and justice
A public service announcement uses six quick words to spell out the consequences of committing a gun crime: “Use a gun and you’re done.” Pull a gun –10 years in prison. Fire a gun – 20 years. Shoot someone – 25 years to life in prison.
That’s the penalty facing the individual(s) responsible for Jackson’s murder.