published Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Gunslinger nation

The tragic fatal Feb. 26 shooting of an unarmed 17-year-old black youth, Trayvon Martin, by an armed and overzealous neighborhood watch volunteer in an Orlando suburb should never have happened. That it did reflects two distinct tragedies.

One involves a wrongful death; so far as is known, Martin was merely walking to the home of his father’s girlfriend to see his father when he was shot.

The second tragedy involves the creation of a law — Florida’s 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law — that so far has safeguarded the shooter from any legal charges. He has claimed the shooting was in legal self-defense, even though he seems to have stalked and confronted Martin in a public location well away from his own home.

The watch volunteer, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, had already alerted police through one of several 911 calls that he was trailing a black youth in a sweatshirt in his gated Sanford community. He was told by a 911 dispatcher not to follow the youth.

“Are you following him?” the dispatcher said. “O.K., you don’t need to do that.” But Zimmerman waved off the warning. A few minutes later, Zimmerman told arriving police officers that he shot and killed the youth in self-defense.

As it turned out, the teenage victim — current pictures portray a sweet-faced boy — carried a can of iced tea in one hand and Skittles in the other when Zimmerman approached. Zimmerman has said he didn’t know what the boy had in his hand that rainy evening.

If there was an encounter then — Zimmerman claims Martin came over to him, that they had a fight and that Zimmerman ended up on the ground — it obviously would not have happened if Zimmerman hadn’t left his SUV, and ignored the 911 dispatcher’s advice, and trailed the boy.

If Martin had shot and killed Zimmerman in similar circumstances, he almost surely would have been arrested and charged with murder. Yet Zimmerman, invoking Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law, has not been charged with anything. That’s because the law goes well beyond a person’s right to own a gun and defend themselves in their home. It allows a citizen not just to obtain a gun-carry permit, but to shoot to kill in self-defense anywhere. It further does not require someone who is threatened, or feels threatened, to attempt to retreat.

The latter is the core flaw of the “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law, which several other states have adopted, as well. Before the National Rifle Association and its vocal minority of supporters began showering states with demands to loosen sensible gun control laws, the common legal grounds for self-defense would have not have allowed someone to follow another person, create a confrontation, and then allow them to shoot and kill an unarmed person who otherwise would not have been engaged in a confrontation.

In those circumstances a murder or homicide charge of some degree would have been filed, no matter what the Sanford, Fla., police have maintained up to now.

Controversy in the wake of this travesty has finally resulted in a promise by a Florida state attorney’s office to present evidence to a grand jury, and a decision by the United States Department of Justice to mount an investigation by its Civil Rights Division and the FBI.

The backlash should not end there. A civil society must demand the repeal of laws that would protect trigger-happy citizens who believe they have the right to judge, shoot and kill innocent or unarmed people in confrontations that they themselves create. America cannot become a nation of mindless gunslingers. But left unchallenged, this is precisely the result that the NRA vision for unabridged gun rights will spawn.

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nucanuck said...

"A civil society..."? Are we still a civil society? The signs are everywhere that the America of a few decades back has become cold an uncaring...every man for himself...and fatally divided.

This sad incident didn't happen in a vacuum...we have so many harsh things happening around us now that we have become numb to what we have become. We now believe that guns are good...that guns are part of the solution...that wars are necessary...and worst of all, we are a nation full of fear and loathing.

There has to be a better way...a higher purpose...surely.

March 21, 2012 at 12:39 a.m.
holdout said...

The case is being presented to a Grand Jury where he will almost surely be indicted. He will be tried and he will be found guilty and he will serve time in prison. Just because he claims self defense and cites a that law as his reason in no way means he is correct. I believe that a jury will see through his claims and convict him. The law itself is not the problem here but how this one idiot is attempting to use it to excuse his murder of an innocent person. Right here in Chattanooga we read about people involved in shootings who are out walking around after having killed or seriously injured someone else. It is not an overnight process and shouldn't be. The only alternative would be to immediately jail anyone suspected of a crime and our system would have to completely change to do that. Maybe it needs to.

March 21, 2012 at 8:10 a.m.
EaTn said...

This Florida incident could just as easily happened in Tennessee with the intolerance "shoot and plead self-defense" mindset.

March 21, 2012 at 8:41 a.m.
GACOP said...

Washington, Madison & Jefferson would turn over in their graves if they read this "Opinion". Self defense is a human right. These laws were passed to stop people from passing laws that require those threatened with unlawful deadly force to retreat or run away BEFORE they can use force to defend themselves. That was the law in some states before the "Castle Doctrine" was passed. This guy in florida is claiming self defense. I doubt it. A Grand Jury will likely indict for at least 2nd degree murder. This has nothing to do with stand your ground laws which have saved countless lives.

To the writer of this opinion...What exactly would you have a citizen do if they are being threatened with deadly force? run away?

March 21, 2012 at 9:12 a.m.

How about we wait for all of the facts to come out in this case before we start passing judgement.

March 21, 2012 at 9:45 a.m.
conservative said...

The writer....." But left unchallenged, this is precisely the result that the NRA vision for unabridged gun rights will spawn."

Baloney, the NRA defends the right to own a gun not to misuse a gun!

March 21, 2012 at 10:19 a.m.

While I don't support the republicans because they seem just as hell bent as the democrats on destroying the country, the democrats seem to make a stand on the most destructive issues.

They want successful people poor or dead. They want unwanted babies dead. They want lazy unproductive people to remain lazy and unproductive as long as they vote the right way. They want illegals to vote. They want honest men to be defenseless. They want women to be men. They want men to be women. They want to be able to take anything from anyone just because they want it. They want communism. They want socialism. They want anarchy. They want atheism. They want slavery. They want control.

They don't care what you want if you don't agree with them, because disagreeing with them means you are stupid. You obviously can't make decisions for yourself. Progressives are a disease. Following the constitution is the cure. That is why they are working so hard to destroy it.

March 21, 2012 at 10:47 a.m.
chet123 said...

FLYINGPURPLESHEEP. GLAD TO HEAR YOU OPEN UP

YOU SAID DEM WANT SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE POOR OR DEAD....MOST SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE ARE DEMOCRATS....WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT...ARE YOU A TOTAL FOOL???

THEY WANT UNWANTED BABIES DEAD......A FERTILE EGG IS NOT A BABY...AND FOOL WHO IS YOU TO FORCE A WOMEN TO HAVE YOUR UGLY BABY.....THEY DONT WANT YOUR BABY....AND I UNDERSTAND WHY....YOU ARE MESS-UP.....WHO WANT A MESS-UP CHILD HAHA

BUDDY ..YOU GOT TO BE SOUTHERN BAPTIST TO TALK THAT STUPID

March 21, 2012 at 11:35 a.m.

That all you got chet123? I'm disappointed. That was very weak.

March 21, 2012 at 11:36 a.m.
conservative said...

FPSE .....How unfair of you for noticing the behavior of Demoncrats instead of their words!

March 21, 2012 at 12:04 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

"In the first five years 'Stand Your Ground' was in effect, justifiable homicides tripled, and the law was a factor in at least 93 cases involving 65 deaths. An investigation of cases from the law’s passage in 2005 to 2010 found that charges were dropped or dismissed for 57 people, and 7 others were acquitted." [Tampa Bay Times]

Regardless of what this law was supposed to accomplish, it is evident that many people are using it as an excuse to shoot first and ask questions later. There is no justification for this ridiculous law and it should be overturned. It's just another way for the NRA and macho gun fetishists to get one step closer to their vision of a gun-lover's utopia, where everyone packs heat and all arguments are settled with a bullet.

March 21, 2012 at 4:03 p.m.

I'm sure the law has been a great suprise for a large number of formerly profitable murderers, rapists, muggers, thieves, etc...

A more polite society is sure to be the result.

March 21, 2012 at 4:07 p.m.
GACOP said...

So what you are saying is 65 people lawfully defended themselves. Where is the problem with that? I guess before the law there were more UNjustifiable homicides? Millions of Americans have and carry firearms and never draw them. Why? They never had a need. Those who did have a need to defend themselves are alive today because of it. If a homicide is justifiable then it means the person was being threatened with deadly force by someone who was breaking the law. Again..what should someone do when a criminal threatens them? call the cops? Run away? Both ideas could easily get the victim killed. A law saying that citizens have a right to defend themselves is as basic as an other human right. Each case is normally put before a Grand Jury made up of citizens who determine if it was in fact self defense. If they say it wasnt, charges are filed.

March 21, 2012 at 5:08 p.m.
chatt_man said...

Rickaroo - so what you are saying is... in 93 cases where someone was shot, 64 shooters (after all the facts were gathered and reviewed by the proper authorities) were found to be justifyably protecting their life or the lives of their familes. And, those law abiding citizens and their family members survived the perpetrators unlawfull actions, rather than the opposite. I agree with FPSE.

When are you people going to understand, the law abiding citizen is only asking for the equal opportunity to protect their lives, and most importantly, their family members' lives, from the criminals that are already carrying guns, and preying on people they hope are not well protected. We cannot be responsible for, nor compared to, every person that acts foolishly, as in the Florida incident.

If I were confronted in a road rage situation, and the other guy whipped my butt, he would never know I had a gun. But, if my wife and family were with me, and four of them in the car hemmed us in somewhere, and was intent on harming them, I would be glad I could protect my family.

It is irrational to think we can turn the other cheek and expect the level of crime we are experiencing lately to lessen, while violent criminals are being released time and time again back out into our society.

March 21, 2012 at 5:35 p.m.
Rtazmann said...

I DO NOT BUY THIS STORY FOR 1 MINUTE...THE NAACP IS BEING BROUGHT IN.,,,,SOMETHING ISN'T RIGHT,,,,SOMETHING TELLS ME ZIMMERMAN THE 28 YEAR OLD MAN IS A POLICE OFFICER OR WORKS CLOSELY WITH POLICE,,,,LIKE A DETECTIVE OR SOMETHING OF THAT SORT...ZIMMERMAN CRIED SELF DEFENSE FROM THE GET GO,,,AND HE IS GOING TO FEAR FOR HIS LIFE FROM A MINOR???AND HE IS 28,,I DON'T THINK SO..THE KEY IS TO SEE WHO HIS WITNESSES ARE AND I'M SURE HE WILL SCARE UP A FEW 2 OR 3 WILL BE POLICE OFFICERS...I PUT MY LIFE ON IT.

March 21, 2012 at 7:45 p.m.
Rtazmann said...

HE DIDN'T PULL THE TRIGGER THERE BEING BUY HIMSELF,,,,HE HAS TO HAVE A WITNESS TO SAY IT WAS SELF DEFENSE OTHER WISE NO ONE WOULD BELIEVE HIM..

March 21, 2012 at 7:51 p.m.

Too bad none of you bothered to look at violent crime trend in Florida, as opposed to just one facet of statistics. If you had, you might have a point. Or if you opposed that bit of statistics, I think it's a bad idea to bring it up anyway, in the vacuum that it is. It's less than 100 incidents, wouldn't it be worth getting the details of all of them, to find out what really happened in them, before you go forth about how they mean something? But you didn't question it, you're just leaping to the defense of the idea that using force against others is always appropriate, and denigrating others who say maybe there's a problem here. Or even disclaiming responsibility for the one of you who admitted this was a foolish act. (But for that, I could applaud you, chatt_man)

This is why you are completely scaring the other side, since you are so myopically focused on what you think is right, that you can't even understand that maybe, just maybe there's some problem in this situation, or others.

I'm sure you think it's the problem of the other side, not yours though.

After all, those damn dirty liberals want you to give up your guns and get shot by a criminal illegal immigrant who is on welfare. (see above, FPSE demonstrates his ability to repeat the conservative mantra again!)

That means you need to redouble your efforts, arm up, and be allowed to shoot anybody who might get in your way.

Keep telling yourself that.

If you want me to tell you that there's times where it is appropriate to use force? Yes, there are. But what I know is that the desire to use force is a perniciously appealing one, that it is far too easy to abuse. Can I get an acknowledgement of that?

So we must not let ourselves be fooled into allowing too much of it. We must be prepared to examine it fully, and not allow the use in self-defense to be abused. Because sooner or later, you will get somebody innocent killed. Like this case. Being responsible for that does go hand in hand with supporting the use of force.

Maybe you don't want to be responsible for every person acting foolishly, but you know what? I don't want the innocent to be killed, and if you choose to use force, you are responsible for it. Don't try to deny there is responsibility, accept it. Acknowledge it.

Maybe you care so much about yourself that you'll take the loss of an innocent life to avoid having to defend your potential use of force, but I recognize that for the selfish attitude it is.

BTW, if you really want to prevent violent crime, try finding the causes of it.

Anyway, what should have happened is the man taken into custody, examined for drug and alcohol usage. Is there anybody who can deny that? You kill somebody, shouldn't the police at least make an effort to establish you were fit to make that decision?

March 21, 2012 at 7:57 p.m.
joneses said...

Self defense is not a human right to liberals as they believe the criminals have been wronged by society and they deserve what everyone else has. The whole liberal agenda is to treat everyone as victims unless you are christian and white. Pathetic. I find it odd the liberals are never outraged by the black on black gang killings. I would guess they accept this as a way of life for certain black people. How racist is that?

March 22, 2012 at 5:20 a.m.
Rtazmann said...

HAPPY THERE IS A 17 YEAR OLD DEAD NOW AND A 28 YEAR OLD CLAIMING SELF DEFENSE,,..BLACK ON BLACK HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT,,,,,LOOK AT THE SIZE OF A KID AND THEN LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE MAN.....LIBERALS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT,,,,,TELL ME SOMETHING WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME SOMEONE LOST THEIR LIFE IN 1 OF YOU GUYS FIGHTS,,,,,THAT GROWN MAN LOOKED LIKE THE FOOTBALL PLAYER,,WOULDN'T YOU SAY??I WOULDN'T BUY HIS STORY ON A STACK OF BIBLES MY FRIENDS AND I SAID WHAT I HAD TO SAY WITHOUT DEGRADING ANYONE ,,,MY FRIENDS

March 22, 2012 at 6:35 a.m.
Rtazmann said...

BESIDES ZIMMERMAN IS 28 A GROWN MAN THAT YOUNG MAN WAS 17 AND A MINOR IN THE STATE OF FL,,AND I DON'T THINK ANY B.S. IS GOING TO WALK INTO THAT COURTROOM

March 22, 2012 at 6:48 a.m.

Rtazchet, My daughter is only 15 years old and she is already 5'7", only 3 inches shorter than me. Kids these days can be much bigger than adults. I don't know how old the pictures they have been parading around are, but the kid in them doesn't look 17. We don't have all the facts being reported here and noone is making a case for Zimmerman in their comments. We are dicussing the law in general. It is a good law and has protected many innocent people.

I read a report of this story by the local fox channel in that area that says a witness who called 911 saw Zimmerman on the ground yelling for help being pummeled by Martin. That witness testimony is suspiciously absent from all of the articles being thrown around by most of the media outlets now. Until all the real facts come out and the racebaiting stories from the media calling this guy white stop, we won't be able to have any semblance of a meaningful discussion on this case. He is just as white as Obama, but you don't see the media calling Obama white...

I am not saying Zimmerman was smart in following the kid, but his side hasn't been presented yet so we don't know exactly why he did it. Until then, I will defend the law as it supports the right of an individual to defend himself and/or his family as others have pointed out.

March 22, 2012 at 9:57 a.m.
chet123 said...

FLYINGPURPLESHEEP.....I'M NOT THE ONLY POSTER WITH A "CAP KEY" ...I DONT HAVE TO SNEAK AND POST MY COMITS UNDER ANOTHER NAME...ONLY YOU REPUBLICAN DO THAT.....I SAY IF THE ROLE WAS REVERSED...PEOPLE LIKE YOU WOULD HAVE A MOB...THEN AGAIN THE POLICE WOULD HAVE KILLED ZIMMERMAN(IF HE HAD BEEN BLACK)ON THE SPOT....

INSTEAD THEY ARE HIDING ZIMMERMAN TO GIVE HIM TIME TO CREATE A LIE....ONLY IN AMERICA

PS ..THE STAND-OFF LAW WAS WRTTEN BY THE "NRA"....ANOTHER REPUBLICAN DONOR...HA HA HA HA HA...AS I HAVE ALWAYS SAID....REPUBLICAN CANT GOVERNED.....THEY DONT HAVE THE TRUST OF THE PEOPLE

March 22, 2012 at 12:09 p.m.
chet123 said...

YOU SAID ZIMMERMAN WOULD SMART....WASNT SMART????THIS MAN HAD ALL INTENT TO COMFRONT WITH HIS GUN...ALL INTENT....NOW YOU TRYING TO WHITE-WASH AND PRESENT HIM AS AN ACCIDENT...YOU ARE FULL OF BS...FLYINGMAN...THIS IS WHY I DONT CUT PEOPLE LIKE YOU ANY SLACK AT ALL....YOU ARE COWARD....IF YOU FEEL SO STRONG ABOUT A ISSUE...WILL WILLING TO DIE OR AT LESS GO TO JAIL FOR IT....BUT WHEN YOU CONFRONTED PEOPLE LIKE YOU PLAY VICTIM.......RUN AND HIDE.....NOW THATS REAL PUNKISH

March 22, 2012 at 12:15 p.m.
chet123 said...

LISTEN TO THESE RIGHT-WING NUTS ....THE BLOOD IS ON THEIR HANDS....I HAVE ALWAYS SAID THESE FOOL CANT GOVERNED.....

March 22, 2012 at 12:17 p.m.

Rtazmann, I think you're confusing me with joneses, as I said nothing about black on black crime, but no, the degrading was above, and from the pro-gun crowd.

Joneses, I am deeply saddened by it, but I don't pretend to try solve it with violence. Use of force is not an unmitigated human right though, it is a very restricted and limited one, only appropriate in certain circumstances. Since the killing of somebody in defense of yourself IS such a use of force, if you can't stand it being questioned or examined, and limited to prevent its abuse, that's a severe problem.

What's especially troubling is that you're apparently outraged by non-violent use of speech that you find abusive and which you want to restrict, but using a gun? Well, that's sacred and unquestionable.

FPSE: Actually, President Obama is Irish. Didn't you know? But I'll tell you something you may not know. Hispanics can be very racist towards Blacks. Focusing on Zimmerman being a minority indicates to me it's more likely he's bigoted, not less.

Also, I heard that witness testimony that was hidden, was Trayvon Martin calling out for help. By the police. Not to mention the editing of the 911 tapes to remove a racial slur. You're right, we do need more evidence to come out. Of the Sanford PD being corrupt and trying to bury this crime. The fact that they didn't even take a drug or alcohol test of Zimmerman is evidence enough to me of their failure to do their job.

March 22, 2012 at 12:23 p.m.
Rtazmann said...

SORRY HAPPY

March 22, 2012 at 4:31 p.m.
Rtazmann said...

OBAMA IS IRISH?? DAMN,,,,LEARN SOMETHING EVERY DAY,,,,,LOL

March 22, 2012 at 4:34 p.m.
jjmez said...

According to an email sent to the Huffington Post by a former resident of that gated community, Zimmerman and his neighborhood watch volunteer group were nothing more than a bunch of drunken lunatics who went around harrassing many of the citizens who lived in that community.

March 23, 2012 at 9:20 a.m.
chet123 said...

I FAULT THE BLACK CITIZEN FOR ALLOWING THEIR COMMUNITY TO HAVE A POLICE DEPT. OPERATING IN THIS UNETHICAL MANNER....

IF THIS CRIME GO UNPUNISH...IT WILL BE OPEN SEASON ON BLACK PEOPLE.....I'M SURE THIS IS WHAT THE "NRA" HAVE ALWAYS WANTED...THE SELL IN GUNS GOES UP.....MANUFACTUER OF GUNS MAKES BILLION(SURE KOCH BROTHER HAVE STOCKS IN GUN...THEY PROFITS)

ALSO....THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN PRISON GOES UP(PRIVATIZATION OF PRICON WILL BENEFITS THE KOCH BROTHERS...SURE THEY WILL HAVE STOCK IN THAT TOO...

IT SOUNDS LIKE AMERICA NEEDS A REVOLUTION!!!!!..THIS SYSTEMS WILL THE TOP PERCENT GAINING MORE AND MORE WEALTH AND POWER.....THIS COUNTRY WILL HAVE KINGS AND BARONS HA HA HA HA

March 27, 2012 at 11:06 a.m.
chet123 said...

JED BUSH SIGNED IN "STAND YOUR GROUND LAW"....BUSH SAID IT WAS GOOD COMMON SENSE....THIS IS ANOTHER REASON WHY WE DONT NEED ANOTHER BUSH IN WASKINGTON......THEY TEAR-DOWN...THEY DONT UP-LIFT THE COUNTRY

March 27, 2012 at 11:09 a.m.
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