Convicting Bresha Meadows for the murder of her father will jeopardize the future of passing “stand your ground” law in Ohio.
In a not so strange way, the story of Bresha Meadows — the 14-year-old Black teenage girl from Warren, Ohio who shot her abusive father, Jonathan Meadows, 41, in the head — makes me think of House Bill 203, or HB-203
In 2013, the Ohio House passed HB-203, a controversial piece of legislation that is addressed to the question of expanding gun provisions in the Buckeye state.
HB-203 passed by an overwhelming majority vote, 62-27. It was designed to “fix” issues in Ohio’s concealed carry laws. Some of those issues include toughening rules for handgun permits and a clause to recognize
The bill also contained a “stand your ground” provision.
If you’re not familiar with “stand your ground” principle, you may recall it from an infamous murder case in Flordia, back in 2012, that left a black teenager named Trayvon Martin, who was on his way home from a convenience store with snacks, dead at the hands of an overzealous, racist neighborhood watchman by the name of George Zimmerman.
Although HB-203 advanced through Ohio’s House, the Senate has been far more cautious and reluctant to greenlight the bill. This may, in part, be due to the pressure of black lawmakers and gun safety activists. In response, the Senate answered with its own gun law alternative — Senate Bill 338 — which, not surprisingly, bans “stand your ground.”
“Stand your ground” is not on the official law books in Ohio. But, Senate Bill 338 has not suffocated the prospects of HB-203 advancing pass the Senate.
Here’s the thing, I actually think HB-203 would stand a better chance becoming Ohio law if the black community could be sure that there was no racial animus undergirding it. This brings us back to Bresha.
On July 28, Bresha shot her father in the head. She was remanded to a juvenile detention center. She pleaded “not true” (the juvenile court equivalent of “not guilty”) and awaits trail.
What spurred her to such drastic measures?
According to this report, Jonathan Meadows spent years terrorizing and physically abusing his family. The abuse was so regular, so consuming, and grew so intense that Bresha began performing poorly in school and, at one point, contemplated running away from home. Locked in a domestic hell, she even ruled suicide as a viable option.
Thankfully, she resisted the latter urge. But, it did nothing to stop the violent deluge that awaited her within the walls of her own home, day after agonizing day. Eventually, she found herself at the breaking point of her sanity, holed up in her room, helpless and scared, overhearing another beating.
So, she took matters into her own hands, grabbed the gun her father had used so many times to threaten and beat her, her siblings, and her mother, and shot him.
Now, lets be honest. What was Bresha Meadows doing if not standing her ground? I mean, she fits perfectly the description of the kind of victim this principle and law is meant to protect, right? More than George Zimmerman, who is currently the main case study of stand your ground law.
But, as the cases of Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile demonstrate — two Black men and one Black boy, mistaken for a man, who were killed for carrying weapons in open-carry states — gun legislation in America seems designed to protect white suspects and carry out the agenda of white supremacy, at the expense of black bodies.
Think back to the Zimmerman case.
Back in February 2012, Zimmerman — who called 911 to report on a suspicious-looking man wearing a hoodie creeping through a private gated retreat in Sanford, FL. — stalked the unarmed Martin.
Police advised Zimmerman not to pursue the 17-year-old. He did so anyway.
After Martin realized what was going on, that a strange man was following him, the two wrestled. In the scuffle, Martin got up the upper hand. Humiliated, Zimmerman pulled out his gun and shot him.
If anyone was standing their ground that evening, it was Trayvon Martin. However, a Sanford jury disagreed, acquitting Zimmerman of manslaughter, and basing their decision on “stand your ground” laws.
In fact, the Zimmerman case was cited as the reason the Senate should form a blockade to HB-203. Here’s what Representative (D-Cincinnati) and chair of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Alice Reese had to say:
“we cannot, should not and will not accept a law that allows for someone to follow someone who has done nothing — something like eating Skittles and drinking some iced tea — to follow them and hunt them down and then hide behind the law….”
This statement is not about gun protections as a testimony of legal fairness. It’s about the crafting of gun laws as an instrument of racial terrorism.
I am curious about the fate of Bresha Meadows. I am concerned that the court will not rule this rightly, i.e., interpret this case as anything other than “justifiable homicide.” I worry that the process of deliberation will spiral into arguments about black pathology. I wonder if justice will be served. I hold my doubts.
However, one thing I don’t doubt is whether or not convicting this black girl of murder will further jeopardize the future of HB-203.
It most certainly will.