Three years ago as of Nov. 23, at the tender age of 17, Jordan Davis was shot and killed at Gate Gas Station in Jacksonville, Florida. He was murdered by Michael Dunn, a middle aged software developer because he was agitated about how loud Jordan and his friends were playing music in their car. Their case was considered a mistrial in February 2014. The case was re-tried in September 2014 and Michael Dunn was convicted of first degree murder in Jordan’s death. Since then, his mother Lucy McBath has been championing and fighting for common sense gun legislation and solutions to the issue of our country’s rampant gun violence. Lucy is the national spokesperson for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. In her work as a gun safety advocate, she has testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the “Stand Your Ground Laws: Civil Rights and Public Safety Implications of the Expanded Use of Deadly Force” as well as both Georgia and Florida State Legislature Committee Hearings for Repeal of the Stand Your Ground Law.
Lucy is a co-star in THE ARMOR OF LIGHT, the directorial debut of Abigail Disney (granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, co-founder of The Walt Disney Company with his brother Walt Disney) in which Disney follows the journey of an Evangelical minister trying to find the courage to preach about the growing toll of gun violence in America. The film tracks Reverend Rob Schenck, anti-abortion activist and fixture on the political far right, who breaks with orthodoxy by questioning whether being pro-gun is consistent with being pro-life. Reverend Schenck is shocked and perplexed by the reactions of his long-time friends and colleagues who warn him away from this complex, politically explosive issue.
Along the way, Rev. Schenck meets Lucy McBath. McBath, also a Christian, decides to work with Schenck even though she is pro-choice. Lucy is on a difficult journey of her own, trying to make sense of her devastating loss while using her grief to effect some kind of viable and effective political action—where so many before her have failed.
Below is my interview with Lucy McBath about THE ARMOR OF LIGHT which debuts today (If you prefer to listen to the interview, please go to the end of the questions):
- I know you’re coming up on the three-year anniversary of your son’s death and I just wanted to find out how you’re coping.
Fairly well as can be expected. I have kind of moved on from the devastation now because I am really kind of understanding my role on a larger scale and a bigger purpose and Jordan’s role on a larger scale for a bigger purpose. And I can’t really be angry or mad or devastated because in the prayers that I prayed for Jordan and myself for years and years, I asked God that we would be used for His purpose so here I am being used not in the way I expected to be used, but most certainly in the way that God would use me and so I am being used just as well as Jordan so I’m okay with that. I’m accepting my role. I’m accepting what God is calling me to do because I know the work that I’ve been given to do is not just for Jordan. It’s way beyond Jordan. It’s for a bigger purpose so I’m doing okay. I think I’m starting to adjust to it. I’m learning tremendous amounts of information. I’m learning so much about the gun culture. I’m learning deeply my moral beliefs and understanding and how much it plays a really large part in being able to really change the kind of gun violence in this country. So I’m accepting and moving forward.
- How did you get involved in “THE ARMOR OF LIGHT?”
I met Abigail Disney, which has been such a tremendous blessing. I met Abigail Disney through my attorney John Phillips, my civil attorney. And I’m not exactly sure whom contacted whom between John and Abby but we came to meet Abby here in New York City through my attorney.
When you were first approached about this film, were you skeptical? Did you have any concerns? What was your thought about it?
Well, of course you know, I had to do a little bit of my research and research Abigail Disney because I just knew she was a part of the Disney family, but I really didn’t know who she was. And frankly, I was just in awe. I was very surprised that she would be interested in our story. But then as I got the chance to talk with her and find out where her heart was, her willingness to really kind of do far more investigating and research, finding out more about public opinion in terms of the NRA gun lobby, the moral part of that, I thought, ‘Well, Wow, why not consider it a blessing and an honor to be able to work with her.’ It was pretty much not to the end of filming that I really understood that she was only following Rev. Schenck and myself. I thought all along, she, because she said she talking with different organizations and individuals, and I would just be a part of it. But it was not my understanding that I would be one of the principals until toward the end of filming I just asked the crew, ‘Well, who else is she filming?’ And they said, ‘Just you and Rev. Schenck.’ I said, ‘Wow!’ So I really didn’t have any idea.
3. What was your opinion of Rev. Schenck before you met him and now since you’ve met him?
Well, of course, I didn’t know of Rev. Schenck. I had to Google him and read about him on Wikipedia, but I was really excited to meet him because I felt that he was the kind of person, a voice, that I needed to speak with. Of course, my community, the minority community, we’re all about safer gun laws and curbing gun violence in the country. But I truly believe that the right evangelical community, most of them, a lot of them are gun owners, NRA members. That was the community that I thought that we really needed to speak to morally. So when Abby said to me, ‘There’s this pastor, Rev. Schenck, that I think you might be interested in speaking to, I was absolutely very nervous because I didn’t know how well received I would be by him but excited at the same time because it was my opportunity to really try to engage someone who was absolutely not like me in this conversation.
And do you think you changed his mind at all about gun control laws? Well, he says I did. He says that my appeals to him and my story and my coming to him was the impetus for pushing him, giving him that last bit of inertia to move forward on those stirrings, the moral stirrings he had about the problems of gun violence in the country.
4. And what is he working on now, as far as you know, as far as that is concerned?
Well, most definitely, he has some new initiatives that he is working on which I’m probably sure I cannot talk about but definitely just beginning to galvanize a lot of support from pastors across the country that are defending what he has been feeling that are morally disturbed by the gun culture in our country, and he says, ‘It disturbs me that people in the United States think the only way they are going to solve their problems are to shoot people dead.’ And so based upon the inkling, that the preservation of life is foremost for him, absolutely pro-life from beginning to end, then this is about him stepping out of the boat into the water, treading the water and going toward what he believes God is calling him to do.
5. Now, why do you think the evangelical right are so adamant about having guns?
Well, I will say, I can speak to you from that viewpoint of being a minority, as a black woman, I think what we have is just is an overly exaggerated, unadulterated fear that America is changing and that America is becoming far more diverse and that there may be an element in this country that believes that they’re losing their power and they want their power back. And the NRA gun lobby feeds right into that with creating and instilling fear in the community that you’re gonna be gunned down, you’re gonna be raped, you’re gonna be carjacked, all those kinds of things. I think it just plays into the whole idea, the ideology that I should be afraid of people who don’t think, act or look like me, and gun violence plays a huge role in that. And that is the element that we’re afraid of. So I think from my perspective, that is what I believe is happening in the country.
I talk to people around the country that blame the government, and I ask them, ‘Who do you mean by the government?’ Because I want them to say to me, ‘President Obama’ because that is really who they mean. So I press them to say, ‘Who do you mean by the government?’ And when they say, ‘Oh you know, the administration,’ I know exactly what they’re talking about. And I have to say to them, ‘Trust me that is not President Obama’s goal to take away every gun out of every household. He is for 2nd Amendment rights, but he understands equivocally that we have to have some tempered laws in place to protect those rights and to protect the rights of individuals that are not gun owners that don’t want to use guns, that don’t want to walk in fear in this country and being gunned down.’ I have to really say, ‘I understand what his platform is. And it is not to take your guns. It is not come in and control your household.’ And the NRA gun lobby spends a lot of time and rhetoric on pushing that. And that is just absolutely not the truth.
6. So what types of laws do you think need to be made or what types of laws need to be eradicated? I’m sure you want the ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws to be eradicated, but have you ever given thought to what types of laws would be most effective?
And let me say, I don’t think ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws should be eradicated because in some instances they can work if used properly. That an individual should be able to protect themselves from imminent threat and danger but not based upon a, you know, the threat has to be credible. It can’t be based upon a perception of a threat and that is how the law is interpreted now, on a perception. I think that is very, very dangerous. And so in some regard, the laws can work if used properly. But I think background check legislation is the number one way that we know in this country to deter a lot of the crimes with guns that we see here. When individuals can walk into gun shows and buy guns with no background check, online sales, no background check. People are selling guns to their family members. We know most definitely that women in large numbers go into gun shows and into gun stores and buy guns because if an individual in their family is a convicted felon and cannot legally get a gun, they’re buying guns for them. So these kind of loopholes.
These are the kinds of things that have to be addressed, child access prevention, making sure that law-abiding citizens that have guns, making sure that those guns are safely put away so that children don’t have access to them. Domestic abusers, making sure that there is legislation put in place, background check legislation that prevents domestic abusers from getting their hands on guns if they’ve already been convicted of domestic abuse because we know the number one way that women are dying in this country in domestic violence confrontations is by a gun. So there are a lot of big moving parts and pieces to the gun culture. A lot of laws have to be examined, but we know the number one way is just background check legislation. We know that 90 percent of Americans in this country agree with what I’m talking about. They all agree that, ‘Yeah, there has to be some sort of sensible solution put in place to close the loopholes that allow people to do the things that they are doing with their guns in this country.’
So do you think that background check legislation would have helped with what happened at the college in Oregon or at Emanuel AME? Absolutely because we know that there was a default with that background check in Charleston that allowed the young man to buy the gun that he used in the Charleston shooting! So there again, we’ve got defaults in these existing laws that allow people, that are allowing gun sellers to sell their guns to people that really aren’t even supposed to have them.
7. My final question for you is I know you were involved in another documentary “31/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets” and that is supposed to be coming to HBO this fall. When will it debut on HBO?
November 23. Do you have any times or just to look at HBO’s website? Yes. Nationwide, it will drop Nov. 23, but you can definitely go on to the website.
Below is a trailer for “THE ARMOR OF LIGHT”
For more information about where you can see “THE ARMOR OF LIGHT” which is being shown in more than 20 cities across the country, go to armoroflightfilm.com.