A recent shooting in Florida has generated national controversy about civilian gun-toters, race, and the National Rifle Association’s dangerous “Shoot First” laws (now enacted in more than 25 states). On February 26th, concealed handgun permit holder George Zimmerman, 28, tailed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in his car as Martin walked back to his father’s fiancee’s home after buying snacks at a local 7-11. Zimmerman was the self-appointed “captain” of his neighborhood watch program and continued his pursuit of Martin even after a police dispatcher told him to leave the boy alone. When police eventually arrived on the scene, they found Martin laying in the grass dying. He had been shot in the chest by Zimmerman. Because of an NRA-written law that was enacted in Florida in 2005-which significantly liberalized the use of lethal force in public-Zimmerman has yet to be arrested.
Most Americans are outraged about the totally unnecessary taking of a young life and calling for justice to be done. Some pro-gun activists, however, have other, disturbing ideas about the murder of Trayvon Martin.
Commenting on a post at “Shall Not Be Questioned” (a blog authored by NRA Election Coordinator Keith Milligan of Langhorne, Pennsylvania), several pro-gun activists expressed thoughts which speak for themselves. First up was “mobo,” who wrote, “OMFG, not that this has anything to do with anything really, but ‘TREYVON’ was this kid s name? What on Earth is the matter with people? How is a kid supposed to get a respectable job when he grows up when the first thing the employers see is ‘Treyvon’ on the top of the resume?” He couldn’t even be troubled to spell the deceased young man’s name correctly. But “Heather from AK” didn’t care. She replied, “That s actually one of the more normal names, these days.” Mobo added that no name “scream[s] ‘ghetto’ like Trayvon … I guarantee you at least one juror will be inclined to aquit the shooter in part because of the victim s name.
“dustydog” then suggested that Trayvon Martin got what he deserved, writing, “Kids, it is wrong to beat up armed people. As the unofficial motto of DS [Defensive Shooting] says, The defenseless victim deserves what he gets. Whether or not Martin “beat up” Zimmerman is unknown. Regardless, the notion that Martin deserved to be killed because he was not carrying a gun is grotesque.
Pro-gun activist “emdfl” was also quick to blame the killing on Martin, writing, “IIRC from the story, that poor, innocent, (17yo)chillin was visiting his stepmother/father(?). Probably from up north where it s perfectly acceptable to smart mouth/attack older white people asking you what you are doing in their neighborhood. Unfortunately, Treyvon forgot he wasn t in the disarmed-victim zone he is used to working in.” Martin was actually from Miami, Florida and had no criminal record. Zimmerman, on the other hand, has been arrested for assaulting a police officer.
Next up was the following comment from “Moshe Gintel”: “I think the young negro was stopped by Zimmerman, and the kid strong-armed Zimmerman. The kid probably took off on Zimmerman s race and if he was alive, the kid should be charged with a Hate Crime Horrid case of anti semetism. Jews should congratulate the Sanford police chief for not arresting Zimmerman.” One of the many problems here is that George Zimmerman is not Jewish.
“Sage Thrasher” made it clear what his “gut reaction” was to the shooting: “You re right about state of mind. If you re walking in a strange neighborhood and a car starts shadowing you really slowly on the sidewalk is your first thought going to be ‘neighborhood watch’ or ‘drive by’? Same if you see a teenage walking through your neighborhood: kid buying snacks or mugger? No matter how open minded you are, your reaction is going to depend partially on both your race and the race of the other person; much of that driven by statistics, probability and your own life experiences. (Personally, if I m minding my own business walking back from a store and car starts following me, my first thought probably isn t going to be ‘somebody wants directions’ unless it s a very nice neighborhood.) In the same way, many of our (and I ll admit, my) gut reactions to this story are based partially on the age and race of the two participants in trying to decide who the actual ‘victim’ was in this case.”
Finally, Clayton Cramer, the author of a new report for the CATO Institute entitled, “Tough Targets: When Criminals Face Armed Resistance from Citizens,” drew the following conclusion on his blog: “Zimmerman, the shooter, had a bloody nose and blood on the back of his head. Based on what the witness said, it sounds like he was getting hit pretty hard by the 17 year old. Regardless of how bad a decision Zimmerman made in confronting Trayvon Martin, once it reached this point, shooting was the right decision.”
Really? It’s the “right decision” to respond in a fistfight by shooting and killing the other guy? Is this what now passes for the “rule of law” in the pro-gun community? “Shoot First,” indeed…