Trayvon Martin Did Not Have to Die
Trayvon Martin did not have to die on February 26, 2012. Though a bullet fired from his gun by George Zimmerman indisputably caused his death, Zimmerman was found not guilty by a Florida jury of either second degree murder or manslaughter in the case. I will not dispute the jurors’ verdict. Given Florida gun laws and statutes pertaining to self-defense, as well as the evidence as presented to them at the trial, they may have done an admirable job in their deliberations. Still, Trayvon Martin did not deserve that his life end when and as it did.
I spent four years in the US Army, during which I was trained in the use of several different models of firearms. I was lucky enough not to have to aim and/or shoot at any living beings while in the service. My personal preference is not now, nor has it ever been, to own or carry a firearm in civilian life. Too many regrettable incidents seem to ensue from their constant presence in our lives, both accidental and intentional. Rarely does a day pass when there are no stories of accidental shootings, mistaken identity or intentional murder committed in the heat of the moment or in a drunken or drugged rage. I have no desire to perpetuate or add to those and have never felt I would be better off having one available for my use. Nor do I feel my family would be safer were a gun kept in the house. I am positive that I could easily pass any background check required to purchase any legal weapon and even obtain a concealed-carry permit for it.
People who carry concealed weapons think and act differently than those who do not, primarily based on the fact that they have the weapon. For instance, would the confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin have even taken place if Zimmerman did not have that gun on that night? Would he even have left his car to pursue Trayvon? Not likely, especially if he were fearing for his own safety. Given the events as related by Zimmerman, it seems that having the weapon emboldened him to act in a manner that created the situation where he felt (reasonably, according to the verdict) at risk of serious bodily harm and then justified by law to use that gun to defend himself. The result – a dead teenager who otherwise would have had an uneventful walk home with nothing out of ordinary having happened.
The city I live in has a contingent of Guardian Angels, a group of civilians who act in the capacity of neighborhood watch somewhat similar to the group of which Zimmerman was a part. In a recent interview, a leader of this group here stated a couple of interesting points. First, when they walk the streets, they always do so in unarmed groups. They are easily identifiable as a group by their clothing. They never carry weapons, concealed or otherwise, and do not become involved in physical confrontations. If they spot a problem, they notify the police but do not take matters into their own hands. Their mere watchful presence is seen as a deterrent to criminal activity on the streets. Granted, not all neighborhood watch groups operate in the same manner, but these seem to be reasonable precautions to prevent most situations like that which occurred in Sanford, Florida that night. Neighborhood watch should be deterring crime, not contributing to unnecessary bloodshed.
Gun laws in this country are a disgrace. Rather than providing more security for those who possess them and their families, the ready availability of lethal firearms results in more deaths and injuries than they ever prevent. Politicians doing the bidding of the gun lobby, along with the lobbyists themselves, use the old tried and true strict reading of the Second Amendment as their defense of increasing availability of weapons and decreasing restrictions on how and where they may be carried. State legislatures have legalized possession of weapons, concealed or otherwise, in such places as schools, churches and bars. The NRA seems to excuse mass murders using assault weapons in such places as elementary schools, crowded movie theaters and shopping centers as being preventable if more people had weapons to defend themselves with.
I see no reason any person other than a law enforcement official should ever be allowed in a bar with a gun. Fist fights are enough of a problem in such venues without adding firearms to the mix. I hear about shootings in bars in this area on a regular basis, though I don’t think my state legislature passed a law making them legal there. Adding legal guns to the places mentioned above is inviting more slaughter, not less, and would also inevitably lead to increased accidental shootings of innocent people. Residents living in rural areas where law enforcement is not as easily accessible have more potential need for weapons for defensive purposes. Not many are calling for an end to hunting on a national basis (though many farm animals and family pets might be better off if it was). But neither of those activities.requires military style assault weapons with large capacity ammunition clips.
The failure of Congress to pass even the measly common sense laws to control access to guns by members of our society deemed undesirable gun owners is inexcusable and irresponsible, as it places the interests of the gun manufacturers and their lobbyists above the safety and wellbeing of the population at large. The same is true of state legislatures that continue to ease gun restrictions and increase the use of Stand Your Ground laws encouraging more people to shoot first and ask questions later. These laws increase the prevalence of guns and gun violence, as well as accidental or intended killing of innocent human beings.
Vigilante justice makes for good theater in a Charles Bronson “Death Wish” movie or a TV series like “24”, but it has no place in modern day American society. The cost in terms of innocent blood spilt is too great. Encouraging individuals to act as George Zimmerman did on that night last year will produce more of the same results in the future. I will never be in a position to kill another person with a gun because I do not allow myself that option. Laws must be passed to decrease gun violence in our society. Reducing the number of them on the street and restricting where they may be legally carried and by whom makes more sense to me than the Wild West approach that seems to be the policy proposed by the leadership of the NRA and the industry they shill for.
Don’t let the deaths of Trayvon Martin or those slaughtered in Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and countless other locales remain unaddressed in the halls of Congress or state legislatures any longer. Demand real action be taken by those bodies to prevent as much as possible future similar tragedies. Other countries have done so, becoming much safer with regard to senseless gun violence without becoming totalitarian dictatorships, and so can ours. Make your legislators and Congressional representatives take responsibility and stand up for us against the corrupt forces that place their profits ahead of our very lives.