Pastors call for race, gun dialogue

Author: Tarik Minor, Anchor-reporter, tminor@wjxt.com
Published On: Feb 11 2014 04:20:27 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 11 2014 08:01:37 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Local pastors are calling for a new dialogue in the northeast Florida community about race relations and gun control.

The pastors say they've been inside the courtroom following the trial of Michael Dunn very closely since it started. Dunn is facing first-degree murder charges in the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

The Jacksonville pastors say it's a social issue that plagues the entire nation -- a disconnect between young African-American youth and an older generation.

In Davis' death, it was loud music that was at the heart of a the fatal argument. The pastors say both Davis and Dunn likely misunderstood each other.

"This is a clear case of someone not understanding, not managing it appropriately," said John Guns, of St. Paul Church of Jacksonville. "At the end of the day, a young man should be alive and not be dead."

Guns, who works with youth across the city, said the trial is a reminder that healthy dialogue is necessary to remove the social barriers that still exist.

"Ultimately, these kinds of cases expose that there still is a racial divide," Guns said. "It exposes that there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinterpretation of actions."

"We've got to find a way to avoid these situations," said Pastor John Newman, of Mount Calvary.

Newman said Dunn didn't need to use deadly force, but on the other hand, the teenagers could have been more considerate when asked to turn the music down.

"Thug music -- I think he called it 'rap crap' -- that enabled him to feel that any gesture, anything said by Davis was perceived as a threat because he profiled him a particular way," Newman said.

The pastors also say that this case should spark new conversation about what is considered self-defense and about Florida's gun laws.

The pastors are urging Florida gun owners to take a good look at what they call a romantic relationship with guns.

"Certainly you cannot say that having a gun does not change the equation of someone psychologically who has it in their possession," Newman said. "If there's no gun, then maybe I'll get out of here or maybe I'll blow the horn, maybe I'll lock the doors or windows if I feel threatened. With a gun though, I have an option."

An option, prosecutors say, Dunn took advantage of. The question remaining is whether the shooting was justified.