Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A gun vs. a bag of Skittles

 I don't need to be a Vegas bookie to know the odds on that pairing.

The real question, though, is why they were ever forced into the ring together.

17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot last month for walking through a neighborhood while black. Yes, I firmly believe that I had been walking down this same street wearing a hoodie with my hands stuck in my pockets the Keystone not-even-a-cop who ended this young man's life would have felt less threatened, even though I'm bigger and probably meaner than Martin.

But first, the story: The teen was walking through a Florida community after getting a drink and a bag of candy from the convenience store. He'd been suspended from school. He was wandering fairly aimlessly when a 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer called the police to report him as a suspicious person. The police told him to do nothing.

George Zimmerman didn't do nothing, though. He says Martin attacked him and he shot him with the gun he was legally able to carry. Another report, from a girl who Martin was on the phone with a few minutes before being shot, indicated that Martin was afraid of the man following him and at one point turned around and asked, "Why are you following me?"

(Note: The above links are to the Miami Herald. I stayed away from my usual sources — Slate, the New York Times, MSNBC — because I didn't want to give the appearance of a slant.)

The police found no reason to arrest Zimmerman. And why not? His story makes sense — if you're illogical.

There are so many things wrong with this. First, the police told Zimmerman to leave Martin alone. He didn't. Second, why was he carrying a gun? Why do any neighborhood watch volunteers carry guns? I don't think that program was implemented to provide a volunteer militia or in case we all of a sudden need citizen's arrests. Their agenda is to patrol the neighborhood, look for suspicious activity and call the police. They shouldn't even be allowed to carry guns. If they are so damn afraid of what's out there that they won't leave the house without a gun, they probably shouldn't be allowed to carry one at all.

Isolated incident? Unfortunately not. Utah had a neighborhood watch shootout a couple of years ago. Unsurprisingly, it ended badly.

Stupidity, however, is not a condition that stops a person from owning a gun anymore than it stops people from driving, reproducing, running for office or speaking publicly. We simply have to work around it.

Fortunately, as the Miami Herald reported, other law enforcement organizations have stepped up to the plate and are investigating the shooting. Zimmerman appeared trigger-happy and far too willing to find anything that happened suspicious. Martin's friend reported that Zimmerman was the initial assailant, not the other way around. Neighbors said they heard a man wailing, a sound that was immediately silenced after the gunfire.

Florida, incidentally, has a law that allows people to not back down if they feel threatened in a public place. Essentially, it allows a person to become the aggressor if he feels threatened in a public place and then claim self-defense.

Interestingly, anytime you're in a public place with the likes of George Zimmerman you should probably feel threatened.

* A little more

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