Kill First, Stand Your Ground Later

July 20, 2013

Loading a gunIn Florida it’s actually possible to shoot someone dead, notch your gun and walk away as if nothing unusual had happened. This is how cheap some lives are in the Sunshine state.

As everyone now knows, in Florida, in the case of Trayvon Martin this is what happened —except for an inconvenient side trip through the court system for the shooter, George Zimmerman.  Actually, there was almost not even a trial. Following his killing of Martin, Zimmerman was quickly released without investigation when he claimed he had been in fear for his life and had “stood his ground”.

In Florida (and 23 other states) the license to kill is called “stand your ground”. The only thing that got the Martin case investigated at all was when the public got wind of the circumstances through some in the media who saw those circumstances for what they were. With the ensuing public outcry the Florida justice system (if you want to call it that) decided that maybe they should take a closer look.

The cylinder of the stand your ground revolver began turning in Oct. 1, 2005 when the Florida Legislature passed a law that took the state  back a 150 years or so. It reestablished a wild-west ethic in the fantasy land of cigar boats and Disney for the convenience of angry Americans with itchy trigger fingers and the National Rifle Association at their backs. Florida was the first state to flip a previous “responsibility to retreat” standard in the face of confrontation, to a right to shoot when you feel like it.

As if the law wasn’t irresponsible enough on its face, it gets really ugly in its application.

Here’s the thing— although the Martin case “had nothing to do with race” as both the prosecution and defense in the proceeding insisted, anyone with a little historical perspective and social awareness knows this is, let’s say, a bag of baloney (to avoid a more apt, but vulgar, term). The case seethed with race.

Trayvon Martin was a black youth wearing a hoody in a place George Zimmerman thought a black youth wearing a hoody should not be. Zimmerman followed this black youth, as any upstanding armed vigilante should, and shot him, defending the homicide with the claim that he had “stood his ground”.

Zimmerman is white by the way.

Here are reasons I believe race played a part in Martin’s murder and that the stand your ground law is biased:

1. Zimmerman’s history of 911 calls on black men, and the recording of his call the night of Trayvon’s death.

2. The inequity of the law’s application: i.e. the case of Marissa Alexander, a black woman who fired warning shots over the head of her abusive husband (killing no one) and cited the stand your ground law in her defense. Alexander was sentenced to 20 years.Marissa Alexander

3. The case of Bill O’Reilly who responded to Tavis Smiley in an interview about the Zimmerman case by (I’m sure) expressing the views of many white Americans.

In that interview Smiley says, “I’m just waiting for the NRA to say Trayvon Martin would be alive today if he’d had a gun.”

To which O’Reilly replies, citing black on black violence, “I believe a lot of the problem is generated by blacks themselves, who won’t solve the problems of their neighborhood.”

“I can solve the problem too,” say Smiley. “Arm every black person in America then let’s see what the NRA has to say.”

“Aw, Tavis,” say O’Reilly, “that’s a little extreme.”

For Bill O’Reilly, what’s good for the goose is evidently not good for the gander.

Still, the actual circumstances of the Zimmerman/Martin confrontation could be known by only two people and one of them is conveniently mute. What’s more, given the law in Florida, what Zimmerman did might have been perfectly legal, proving once again that the law and justice are not synonymous.

Columnist Donald Kaul points out the problem with this at Common  Kaul clearly sympathizes with those who think justice was not done by Zimmerman’s acquittal, but says:

“As a matter of fact, I would not vote for a guilty verdict on the charge of murder. By Florida law, the evidence did not prove “beyond the shadow of a doubt” that Zimmerman murdered Martin.”

And, as the President said in one of his responses to the tragedy, “We are a nation of laws (not justice).” —parenthesis mine.

In fact Florida’s stand your ground law just happens to coincide with increasing incidents in the United States of psychopaths with guns on killing sprees —psychopaths who are able to do what they do because gun manufacturers and their media mouthpiece, the NRA have labored ceaselessly to gin up fears both of threats to the 2nd amendment and of brown-skinned others. According to the NRA guns must be available to anyone no matter who, no matter what in order to protect the rights of anyone to shoot anyone they see fit to shoot (not counting armed blacks if Bill O’Reilly is any example of white thinking).

In fact “stand your ground” is just a codified license to kill. And it’s supporters are as guilty as George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin because, as Donald Kaul wound up in his article, “It’s a really stupid law.”

by Jim Culleny


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