Saturday, March 24, 2012

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On Trayvon Martin killing, a travesty of justice



I tackled the controversy over the killing of and unarmed child on my blog at The Washington Times. His killing has captured the hearts and minds of millions, including many parents, who want the police to arrest the man who confessed to the killing. Not one to shy away from controversial topics, I wanted to share it with Bellytich readers. Here is an excerpt:



Some supporters of gun rights and  the National Rifle Association have jumped into the argument over Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black child who was killed in Florida.

Today, the NRA, through its Institute for Legislative Action,  continue to support  “Stand Your Ground” self-defense laws that  like those it has helped push through the legislatures of several states. Those laws protect people who commit a homicide while protecting themselves and their property.

However, a few weeks ago, George Zimmerman, a 28-year old wannabe-cop with a violent criminal past, used Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law to escape arrest after he shot and killed a promising young man, 17-year old, Trayvon Martin. He did it as Martin walked home from a convenience store where he’d bought some candy and iced tea for a sibling.

Martin had been visiting the home of his father’s fiancĂ© in a gated community in Sanford, Florida when Zimmerman, the community volunteer watch captain, spotted him, determined he looked “suspicious,” and called the police. It was the last of more than three-dozen 911 calls Zimmerman had made since the beginning of the year. His neighbors have characterized him as an overly aggressive loose cannon. Ignoring police orders not to pursue Martin, Zimmerman followed him and initiated an altercation that ended in the young man’s death.

Today, the authors of Florida's stand-your-ground self-defense law said Zimmerman should be arrested. "He has no protection under my law," former Sen. Durell Peaden told the Miami Herald.

"The guy lost his defense right then," Peaden told the Miami Herald. "When he said 'I'm following him,' he lost his defense."

Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, parents of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin, await formal charges issued on George Zimmerman who has confessed to killing their son, but claimed it was in self defense.

Co-sponsor Rep. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala, FL Republican legislator told the Orlando-Sentinel, “I think the fact that he was in pursuit does greatly compromise his argument” of self-defense.

Supporters of the NRA ought to be careful about adopting Zimmerman as their poster child for responsible gun ownership and usage. Responsible gun owners know the limits of their right to carry a weapon and are well aware that they cannot use deadly force indiscriminately, without reasonable, justifiable cause. Sane and upstanding gun owners also know they shouldn’t take their guns to go pick a fight then expect to use a self-defense law as protection.

Since the Florida stand-your-ground law has been in effect, it has helped several others escape jail after killing in self-defense. Before the law passed in 2005, the average annual number of killings ruled justifiable was 13, but that number spiked to 36 between 2006 and 2010, with the highest in 2009 at 45.  But one expects the law to be applied fairly and after a thorough investigation.

It doesn’t appear that this standard was met this time. Sanford police applied the law in Zimmerman’s case despite knowing that Zimmerman was blocks from his own home and that Martin could not have been robbing him at the time of the killing. They knew that he was the one who pursued Martin, not the other way around.

Before jumping on the NRA bandwagon, those with children in their lives should first stop and ask themselves whether, if their son who was killed by a man in pursuit who may have been drinking or under the influence of drugs, as some experts believe Zimmerman was, they too would want to see an arrest, at the very least. 


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