A crucial fact thus far left out of the debate surrounding the shooting of Trayvon Martin is that Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which is keeping George Zimmerman out of jail, affects more people from outside the state than it does Floridians.
According to census data, 19,057,542 Americans lived in Florida in 2011, a year in which the state claims 85.9 million tourists visited. Florida law must, in short, not only protect the liberties of Floridians, but also the wellbeing of tourists and tourism, the state's largest sector. The piece of legislation allowing residents "to stand [their] ground and meet force with force, including deadly force," which left Zimmerman legally unencumbered to shoot an unarmed teen, has consequences for all those visitors. The law's existence also ought to have consequences for the state.
In 2003, the advocacy group Oceana began a boycott of Royal Caribbean Cruises, demanding the company install wastewater purification systems and stop leaching toxins into the seas. Royal Caribbean, a company with a market cap over $6 billion, agreed to the changes after receiving just 90,000 pledges from cruisers who said they wouldn't book trips until the cruise giant quite literally cleaned up its act. That same year, Royal Caribbean took roughly 3 million people to sea, meaning a mere three percent of its customers affected a major policy shift by threatening to withhold their dollars.
Because tourism is such a big business, travelers are more empowered than other sorts of consumers to make demands. (Ask a Burmese official about it some time.)
If tourists boycott Florida -- as tourists boycotted Arizona after controversial legislation was enacted there in 2010 -- the state will have to choose between economic Russian roulette and putting the guns down altogether. As long as Florida depends on tourists' money -- to the tune of roughly 9.3 percent of G.D.P and a million jobs -- the state's government has a motivation to protect citizens of Oregon, Illinois and, for that matter, Brazil, Germany and Japan. A simple reminder of that fact might go a long way pushing politicians to eliminate a law that demonstrably endangers the safety of everyone in the Sunshine State.
By pledging not to visit Florida (sorry Grandma), non-Floridians can affect change.
There are major issues at play in the Trayvon Martin case -- race and the second amendment among them. Given the gravity of the situation, neither truth nor reconciliation are likely to arrive anytime soon. Still, supporting an immediate solution to an immediate and non-ideological problem could be the first step towards a resolution that, tragically, will never bring a young man back to life.
Here are five U.S. destinations for Spring Break that aren't Florida:
San Diego has it all: sun, waves, a vibrant downtown and an almost offensively high quality of life.
The banks are a bit wild and a lot beautiful. Local businesses could also use a little cash to recover from last year's storms.
Spring break is big business in South Padre, where the weather (and sometimes the beer) is warm.
Holly Beach is the Cajun retort to Florida's Redneck Riviera.
It may not be a state, but Puerto Rico has one of the U.S.'s best beaches.
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