|CSGV STATEMENT ON VERDICT IN ZIMMERMAN TRIAL
|Washington, DC—There can be no doubt after the Not Guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman that murder has now been legalized in half of the 50 states.The traditional presumption in the law—from the advent of the Hebrew Bible through the creation of Roman law, English common law, and American law—has been that if you could spare human life, it was incumbent upon you to do so. With the “Stand Your Ground” law, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its partners in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have turned 3,000 years of jurisprudence on its head. Now you can provoke a fight, and if losing that fight, kill the person you attacked.
Turning the other cheek is supposed to be a sacred virtue. But by removing the duty to retreat from a confrontation in public when one can safely do so, the “Stand Your Ground” law allowed George Zimmerman to stalk and kill an unarmed teenager and walk away a free man. That’s a tragedy, because there can be no doubt that Zimmerman could have avoided a confrontation with Trayvon Martin on the evening of February 26, 2012.
The NRA’s law represents a dangerous and unprecedented escalation in the use of force in the public space, allowing individuals to kill when they merely fear “great bodily harm” (i.e., a fistfight, shoving match, etc.). The concept of responding with proportional force has been obliterated. In this case, the “harm” done to Zimmerman, by whatever source, was so minor that EMTs didn’t even offer him treatment minutes after the shooting.
Americans should also question why Zimmerman was allowed to carry a loaded gun in public in the first place. He has been previously arrested for assaulting a police officer and placed under a restraining order for a domestic battery involving a former fiancee. Again, Zimmerman had the NRA to thank. Their “Shall Issue” law in Florida awards concealed carry permits to individuals with minimal screening/training and removes any discretion law enforcement might have in approving applicants.
The message to would-be killers is now clear. You need not fear carrying your gun in public, or using it. If you do, just make sure you are the only one remaining to testify about the nature of the confrontation in question.
As much as the gruesome mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, the acquittal of George Zimmerman is confirmation that the American promise of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” will continue to be squandered until the NRA’s pernicious stranglehold on our legislatures is broken. Lawmakers in states with “Stand Your Ground” laws should immediately repeal these cancerous blights on American values, law and tradition.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy.