Following the high profile mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut the nation’s on-going gun debate has now moved south to Sanford, Florida. There, neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman is on trial for having shot and killed 17 year-old Trayvon Martin during a tragic confrontation on a rainy night in February 2012 at the Retreat at Twin Lakes where they were both in residence at the time.
In the wake of the violence and dislocation endemic to this nation, some have suggested we institute what we might call an “Old West” solution, arm everybody; that will give the “bad guys” pause. Well, if you may have wondered what effect arming the general public might have on public safety, just look to the Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman case.
Ask yourself this: would Mr. Zimmerman have ever left the protection of his SUV to further follow Mr. Martin on that rainy February night had he not been carrying a firearm? The fact that he was both suspicious and afraid of the hoodie-wearing teen in the wake of the series of recent break-ins and burglaries in the neighborhood — which is what he told the police that very night — points to the courage the handgun itself provided him, but which eventually led to the killing of Mr. Martin.
Though he had long wanted to be a policeman, at an overweight 5’7” in height George Zimmerman was not fit. Though he had been taking boxing lessons for the better part of a year, the man training him testified that Mr. Zimmerman had still not reached a level of proficiency sufficient to allow him to be put into the ring with an opponent. In fact, the gym owner called him “soft”.
Yet despite that and the police dispatcher’s admonition not to follow the person, Mr. Zimmerman put himself (and Mr. Martin) in harm’s way solely because he felt emboldened by carrying a loaded handgun. That he found himself with the need to use that weapon — after Trayvon Martin confronted him for following him — was predicated on Mr. Zimmerman having overcome the natural reticence that being unarmed would have created.
Once confronted, Mr. Zimmerman’s failure to announce himself as a neighborhood watchman and his lack of fighting trim combined with Mr. Martin’s more youthful condition and corresponding fear of what he also considered the advances of a suspicious character – in Trayvon Martin’s parlance, “a creepy-ass cracka” — led to the fatal shooting.
Forget about innocence or guilt in this particular case. There are no winners, only tragic losers. You still want everyone armed? If so, then I’d suggest you make another killing by investing heavily in the funeral home business, because they’re going to get awfully busy.