The similarities between the shooting deaths of Will Smith and Joe McKnight are striking: both were former NFL players gunned down during a road rage confrontation. But while Cardell Hayes, who is black, was arrested at the scene of his shooting of Smith, Ronald Gasser, who is white, wasn’t arrested until four days after the killing of McKnight.
“Why were these two people treated differently?” asks Victoria Coy, executive director of the Louisiana Violence Reduction Coalition, echoing many.
While Coy admits that all of the facts in the McKnight case aren’t in yet, she says the LVRC can still play a supporting role. “We can stand with, and amplify our coalition partners, particularly our advocates and friends who are in the communities of color who are doing such a good job in taking the [Jefferson Parish] Sheriff [Newell Normand] to task, and really demanding accountability for the discrepancies.”
It also appears that Gasser may use Louisiana’s ‘stand-your-ground’ law in his defense, Coy says, making it a great time to re-examine the law and its effects.
Coy points to recent studies that have shown an increased murder rate of about 9% in states with ‘stand-your-ground’ laws, which say that a homicide is justifiable if one is in imminent danger of death or receiving great bodily harm.
Another study from Florida showed a 24% jump in homicides since their law was passed.
“So I think that Louisiana owes it to families like the family of Joe McKnight to investigate ‘stand-your-ground’, and ask some hard questions,” Coy says.
The Louisiana Violence Reduction Coalition is the state’s only state specific gun violence prevention organization. “So we are the only ones working in the Louisiana Sate House to pass common sense gun laws and to stop the gun lobby in its tracks,” says Coy.
“Last year was our first year in existence and we singlehandedly defeated all the gun lobby’s priority legislation, so we’re really proud of that,” adds Coy. “We look forward to doing the same thing this session and we’re even eyeing positive legislation, writing our own common sense gun laws into common sense gun bills and pass them into law.
“We also do a lot of hearts and minds work, social change work,” says Coy, “and a lot of that work brings us into communities of color, particularly communities of color, and it’s from that strong coalition base and that background that we’re able to respond to situations like the Joe McKnight shooting.”
For more information, visit https://laviolencereduction.org.