At the heart of the George Zimmerman trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin, Kathleen Parker writes, is an issue that is overshadowed by all the complications that color people’s emotional reactions to the death. The question is, Parker writes, why was Zimmerman walking his neighborhood, as the saying goes, armed and dangerous? “In what world is that normal behavior?”
Djones121 says because he could:
He was allowed to walk around armed and loaded because it is lawful to do so under both federal and state law. It was also lawful for him to defend himself by shooting someone who was attacking him. Even without a “stand-your-ground” law, Zimmerman could still have legally defended himself if he felt there was no safe way to retreat. Martin was on top of him and no one responded to Zimmerman’s calls for help.
withathought disputes Djones’s dismissal of Stand Your Ground’s importance. PostScript determined through extensive Googling that this entire portion of the comment is an unattributed quote from an opinion piece in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel by Dan Gelber, who PostScript guesses must be withathought, because otherwise there would be plagiarism on the internet:
In 2005 the Florida Legislature fundamentally changed the analysis used by juries to assign blame in these cases. When the legislature passed the Stand Your Ground law it changed the rules of engagement. It eliminated the duty to avoid the danger and it eliminated any duty to retreat. If the Trayvon Martin killing was tried prior to the Stand Your Ground law being passed, the jury would have been told that self-defense was not available to Zimmerman unless he had used every reasonable means to avoid the danger. The jury would have been told that even if they believed Zimmerman had been attacked wrongfully by Trayvon, he could not use deadly force if he could have safely retreated or run away. Here is the actual jury instruction read to Florida juries prior to the legislature’s enactment of Stand Your Ground. “The defendant cannot justify the use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm unless he used every reasonable means within his power and consistent with his own safety to avoid the danger before resorting to that force.
The fact that the defendant was wrongfully attacked cannot justify his use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm if by retreating he could have avoided the need to use that force.”
In this case, did Zimmerman use “every reasonable means within his power…to avoid the danger” or did he follow Trayvon despite admonitions that he did not need to?
jplegend says that essentially, ineffective police departments mean we all can and should enforce order:
Zimmerman had every right to be “armed and loaded.” He had every right to patrol the neighborhood and monitor strangers, with the recent history of crime in his community. He also had every right to defend himself when attacked. It would be nice if there were enough police to prevent all crime, but that isn’t reality. Citizens who take it upon themselves to keep watch and protect their children and neighbors should be commended. We need more of them.
baz987 says people like Zimmerman are walking around armed because people like Zimmerman are walking around armed:
What planet are you living on? It is the world we live in. Just go to Chicago [PostScript note: or a gated community in Florida]. How do you think all the shootings happen? People are walking and driving with guns. Most of them are criminals but we apparently can’t stop them. If I lived there I’d definitely want to carry a gun even though I’ve never owned one.
blbixler agrees and predicts more incidents like this one as a result:
Welcome to 21st century America. When empires collapse, social order and humane interaction are early casualties. The United States is becoming a conglomeration of balkanized zones, with fewer and fewer areas of commonality.
I support 2nd amendment rights, but like all rights, I feel they should only be accorded to law abiding citizens. George Zimmerman’s record should have put up some red flags.
My biggest fear is that these “stand your ground” laws will lead to a lot more deaths, because the fact that dead men tell no tales is real asset for defendants. And in all honesty, the only practical advice I can see for someone living in a state with SYG laws is to buy a handgun and start carrying. Because almost everyone else will be.
And Left_Coast_Natitude cites a Tampa Bay Times study that suggests Stand Your Ground’s application is unfair to black shooting victims, which undermines faith in the system even more:
All other details of a shooting being equal — including whether the shooter and victim were strangers and whether the incident took place in the shooter’s home — black people who claim self defense are far more likely to be convicted than white people who claim the same.
The system isn’t color blind. And the disparity is so great that it simply can’t be dismissed by anyone with a basic understanding of statistics.
So, to let commenters answer Parker’s question, Zimmerman’s behavior is getting more and more normal in this world.