America’s Wild West gun laws

By Bernd Debusmann
March 23, 2012

The killing of a black teenager by a self-appointed vigilante in Florida has trained a spotlight on gun laws reminiscent of the Wild West in 24 U.S. states. Despite widespread outrage over the Florida case, gun-friendly senators in Washington want to make it easier to extend those laws to most of the country.

That would set the United States, where there are more firearms in private hands than in any other country, even farther apart from the rest of the industrialized world as far as guns are concerned. And it would mark yet another success for the National Rifle Association (NRA) in its long campaign against gun controls.

Before getting into the details of the planned legislation, a brief recapitulation of what happened in the Orlandosuburb of Sanford on February 26: Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old high school student, walked to a family member’s home at night when George Zimmerman, a self-appointed “neighborhood watch captain” spotted him, deemed the teenager suspicious, pursued him and shot him dead with a 9 mm pistol after what he told police was an altercation that made him fear for his life.

Police questioned Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, accepted his account of the incident, and let him go, following the letter or a 2005 Florida state law that allows citizens to use deadly force if they “reasonably believe” they face harm. Unlike previous such cases, the teenager’s killing caught national attention, largely because social media served as a vehicle to carry charges of racism and unequal justice to a huge audience.

On March 8, Martin’s parents posted a “petition to prosecute the killer of our son” on the website change.org.

By March 23, after thousands of demonstrators in New York, Miami and Sanford demanded Zimmerman’s arrest, the parents’ petition had gathered close to 1.5 million signatures. Sanford’s police chief, Bill Lee, stepped down “temporarily” to let tempers cool, as he put it. In Washington, the Congressional Black Caucus, an informal group of African-American legislators, termed the teenager’s death a “hate crime.”

One might be tempted to think that the wave of indignation, steadily gathering momentum since February 26, might have tempered the enthusiasm of gun-loving Washington legislators for expanding controversial laws. But one would be wrong. And one would underestimate the clout of the NRA, considered one of the three most influential lobbies in the United States.

On March 13, less than two weeks after Trayvon Martin’s death, a Democratic senator from gun-friendly Alaska, Mark Begich, introduced the “National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2012.” Just another week later, SenatorJohn Thune from South Dakota introduced a bill “to allow reciprocity for the carrying of certain concealed firearms.” The differences between the two are minor and due to an arcane dispute between the NRA and the smaller and more radical Gun Owners of America. The NRA has asked its members to contact their senators and ask them to co-sponsor the Begich bill.

HAVE GUN, CAN TRAVEL

Both bills would force all states that issue permits to carry concealed weapons to recognize permits obtained elsewhere. States such as California and New York that have stringent regulations on who can carry a gun would be obliged to allow people with permits obtained from states with lax gun laws, such as Florida. Gun control advocates say that it is laws allowing citizens to carry loaded handguns in public that form the basis of additional legislation, Such as the Florida Stand Your Ground law that barred police from arresting Zimmerman.

As Alcee Hastings, a Democratic congressman from Florida put it: “This misguided law does not make our streets safer, rather it turns our streets into a showdown at the OK Corral. But this is not the Wild West. We are supposed to be a civilized society. Let Trayvon’s death not be for naught. Let us honor his life by righting this wrong.” Hastings, who is African American, called for a repeal of the law.

That is not likely to happen, and less so in an election year. President Barack Obama has stayed out of the debate on gun laws, which flares every time there is a headline-making shooting, and with few exceptions, lawmakers seek the gun lobby’s favor and the resulting votes. This is the chief reason why advocates of tighter gun regulations have had little success over the past two decades.

Another reason, according to Kristen Rand of the Washington-based Violence Policy Center, is that most Americans are unaware of the number of people killed in incidents similar to the shooting of Trayvor Martin. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) does not compile statistics on such cases and most of them are never known outside the place where they happened.

“The average person has no idea of the scale of the problem,” said Rand. “If they had, things might be different.”

PHOTO: Demonstrators gather to call for justice in the murder of Trayvon Martin at Leimert Park in Los Angeles, March 22, 2012. Florida Governor Rick Scott appointed a task force on Thursday to investigate the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin as calls grew for charges to be filed against the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed him. Also, the state prosecutor who had been handling the investigation will step aside from the probe, Scott said in a statement.  REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

44 comments

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I live in Vermont, home of what NRA members call “the Vermont Carry.” That is, aside from a few municipalities, anybody can carry a concealed weapon without any special permit. It was never a subject of legislation, it’s just that nobody ever considered it a problem. Why?

Because nobody does it.

I’m a gun owner and I would never carry a gun around in public, concealed or not. I know some very conservative people who are gun owners, and none of them would carry a concealed weapon. It would be considered asinine around here. There’s no “stand your ground” law either. The only time you’ll see a private citizen carrying a gun in public is on a back road during deer season.

Vermont has the second lowest crime rate in the nation, after New Hampshire. That’s mostly because we have small, neighborly communities (zero anonymity) and a low unemployment rate. Better addiction treatment services would probably put us past New Hampshire. No pistol packing necessary.

Nevertheless, our legislators wet themselves when the NRA is mentioned. There are a bunch of people who are convinced that any attempt to tighten firearms regulation would be the end of (what passes for) Western Civilization As We Know It. If an election was between a “pro-gun” child molester and, well, anybody advocating greater regulation, the child molester would get their vote. That was hyperbole, but only slightly. It’s a religion, not a science.

Posted by MinorHeretic | Report as abusive

First, I would like to comment on Ms. Rand’s assertion that the FBI does not compile statistics “on such cases”:
As long as Mr. Zimmerman is not convicted the shooting of Mr. Martin falls under the FBI statistic of “justifiable homicides” which is further divided into killings by law enforcement officers and by private citizens.

Second, I would like to comment on Ms. Rand’s assertion that things might be different if “the average person” had an idea of the “scale of the problem”:
The scale of the problem is the following: In the US in 2010 you were statistically more likely to be struck by a lightning (400 people – http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/medi cal.htm) than justifiably being killed by a private citizen (278 people – http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/cri me-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-201 0/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expa nded/expandhomicidemain).

Now you draw your own conclusions!

Posted by Ernest44 | Report as abusive

This was a terrible tragedy. I am not familiar with Florida law, but it sounds like the shooter may be guilty of a crime. It is clear that that victim was unarmed and did not pose a threat even though the shooter claims he felt threatened. As unfortunate an incident as this is, it shouldn’t be a determining factor in rewriting Florida’s concealed carry law. The reason “stand your ground” laws have come into being is to protect the innocent party in a violent confrontation. Being obliged to attempt to flee before defending yourself, depending on the situation puts you at risk. Many people are physically unable to run away. Despite media accounts to the contrary “stand your ground” is not a license to kill. It simply affirms our right to self defense.

Posted by gordo53 | Report as abusive

Sorry but the Congressional Black Caucus is NOT an informal group, inasmuch as the NAACP is not an informal group.

Posted by scottchester | Report as abusive

Americans who don’t choose to keep guns, especially handguns with their higher rate of child deaths, have the same right to exist without fear as anyone. I would be heartily surprised if the NRA or GOA hadn’t lobbied for protection against civil suits in ‘stand your ground’ shootings. Do insurance companies spread the risk for ‘legal’ killings like the one in Florida over the rest of us? I am writing my senator and congressman today to remind them it’s not too hard to monitor their votes to see who is being represented

Posted by auger | Report as abusive

“Stand your ground” events occur every day. You just don’t hear about them because no shots are fired. What I’m talking about is something like this. One or more assailants approach their intended victim. Said victim, realizing that an attack is imminent, displays his concealed weapon. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, the assailant(s) depart. The assault is averted. End of story. This is by far the most common event involving the use of concealed weapons. There is no high drama, no violent shootout, but a serious crime including the possibility of a murder is averted.

Posted by gordo53 | Report as abusive

Since when was it illegal for a watch captain to ask someone what he was doing inside a gated community?

What the media ISNT telling you is after Zimmerman asked him what he was doing the teen jumped the guy and was wailing on him. Thats when the gun came out.

Does that sound like an innocent kid just being a kid?

No..dont believe everything the Lefty media in the USA prints..

Posted by notgonnahappen | Report as abusive

Not sure why they call th Congressional Black Caucus an ‘informal group’, but this quote is amazing coming from people who are responsible for passing laws.

‘African-American legislators, termed the teenager’s death a “hate crime.”

I think these ‘legislators’ should take a quick look at the facts before they call this a hate crime. The family of the accused seemed to be fairly involved with the black community. So far this sounds like a tragic case of an idiot being able to purchase guns so he can play commando/cop.

Posted by Kevin5069 | Report as abusive

I’m a Florida resident and the “Stand your Ground” law is easily searchable on the web. I has no provision to pursue or follow a person, so even if the case is not a racial issue Zimmerman is still guilty of murder.

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/inde x.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_St ring=&URL=0700-0799/0776/Sections/0776.0 13.html

Posted by olydude | Report as abusive

Kevin 5069 said: “So far this sounds like a tragic case of an idiot being able to purchase guns so he can play commando/cop.”

Exactly right. Why we sell guns to idiots is beyond comprehension. I suspect this guy has been harboring a desire to kill someone for awhile. Such desires are often rooted in the phallic-obsessed nature of that type of individual. The gun is an extension of their phallic fantasies. We don’t want this guy walking streets anymore with his high potential to shoot again – - lock him up. Lock him up not just for the killing but also to protect us from him doing it again which he no doubt will if given the chance.

Posted by explorer08 | Report as abusive

The facts of this case, at least those reported so far,would indicate that Zimmerman initiated the altercation and it got out of hand. It is apparent that he is a “wannabe cop” – taking LE classes and his comments that he planned to be an officer. A tragic situation of ego out of control.

I have a concealed carry license and carry daily. Have studied martial arts for decades. Zimmerman’s motives appeared to very distorted – if there was suspicious activity by this young man, Zimmerman should have waited for LE to arrive. He was chosen by the local Neighborhood Watch to be the leader (not self-appointed, Mr.Debusmann)but he failed in that capacity.

The vast majority of CCW license holders, I suspect, would never approach somebody and look for a confrontation. So the assertions that Debusmann makes in this article are just another far left liberal attack on self defense rights. The issues are not about how safe CCW license holders are, but about the vigilante attitude of Zimmermann. I do not think this was a racial hate crime, but Zimmermann probably was racial profiling and he had no business approaching Martin. My sympathies to out to Martin’s family.

Posted by AuAgExpl | Report as abusive

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Posted by mlcopines | Report as abusive

Michael Moore, in his movie Bowling for Columbine, said Canada was the country with the most guns per capita. What are the actual numbers per capita?

Posted by coughlib | Report as abusive

It appears to me that we have a very lucrative industry, the gun industry, that spends a lot of money cultivating the myth that guns somehow equal true American patriotism and any law attempting to place any kind of regulation or restriction on gun ownership is a direct attack on the American spirit and represents an attempt on the part of the government to confiscate all of our guns.

Frankly, I find this prevailing attitude to lack any real logic or civility, and shows a dangerous vein of immaturity that runs through our nation. I believe it’s just another example of the rich and powerful using their money to increase their profits by manipulating the masses into believing something that isn’t true, but is good for business. You see similar campaigns with other industries, like our healthcare and oil industries. Our healthcare industry is insane, but millions of Americans have been convinced that it’s the best in the world. These days you can hardly watch television without seeing an ad promoting the idea that oil companies exist primarily to make the world a better place or insurance companies whose goal it is to make everyone happy and thriving. Our population has become so pliable, so easily manipulated, we are fast becoming the least freethinking society among all developed nations. We’ve gotten to where the US stands out as being some of the most dumb and docile people in the world. Apparently, that’s okay, just so long as we have our guns. Repeat a good spin enough times and Americans will believe anything. It’s sad.

What worries me about these Stand Your Ground laws is that in order for someone to get away with killing you, they just have to make sure there aren’t any witnesses, and the less connected you are (pssst…minorities), the easier it is to get away with killing you. I could shoot my brother-in-law, claim he was coming after me to kill me, and who could prove otherwise? (Hmmm…) The gun industry has to love this law because now no one will feel safe unless they own a gun, so now everyone has to go out and buy a gun or be at risk, which is the whole idea, right?

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive

I own guns for self protection at home. I have never been interested in CHL but since the law in my state changed recently allowing for guns to be carried in automobiles, I began carry one there. The reason I do is quite simple, I fear the gun zealots are running the streets like gangs of undisciplined vigilantes and I want to at least have a chance should I be accosted by a NRA member.

Posted by libertadormg | Report as abusive

Yes, let’s all continue to blame firearms for every criminal act. Let’s not blame the people that committed the act. While we’re at it let’s outlaw the following things, because they are unsafe for Americans.

1. All forms of transportation
2. Sports
3. Walking
4. Swimming
5. Sitting

Posted by americanidiots | Report as abusive

The local police should have recognized that Trayvon Martin was the person defending his life, not George Zimmermann. Zimmermann wanted to be a police officer, but the facts are clear that this wannabe cop’s ego was out of control. He followed Martin in his car, got out and confronted him (against the advice of the police he called on his cell phone) and then shot the young man when Martin tried to defend himself.

As a martial artist and CCW license holder, I carry my weapon daily. I would never initiate a confrontation and always try to find a peaceful way out of any situation. This is the case for the overwhelming majority of CCW holders, a group of citizens that nationally has a lower crime rate than law enforcement officers. We are people that believe we have the right to defend ourselves and in order to do that, a weapon is required.

The issue here is not about weapons and concealed carry, but about attitudes and, what appears to be a local police force that did not do their job. At the very least, this should go to court to get the facts out in the open. Is this a hate crime? – maybe, but I doubt it is that simple.

My sincere sympathies to young Martin’s family.

Posted by AuAgExpl | Report as abusive

Hello? “We are supposed to be a civilized society.” Well, we’re not, and that’s why guns were carried in the “old west” too.

Why are there a disproportionate number of blacks and hispanics in out jails? Not because of bias. Because those are the majority of American sociopaths, for whatever reason. Their communities have THEM to thank if there is a “shoot first and ask later” mind set “out there”.

A carjacking or purse snatching is NOT obvious to a victim until it is too late to react. When these communities instill respect for others in their young, a respect for education and distaste for drug use their young will gradually get the trust that others presently enjoy.

That change is their responsibility, not the responsibility of the rest of society that is all too often their victim.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

To: Libertadormg … How many NRA members have accosted anyone? Anywhere?
That is such a biased statement to make.
You are driving around with a loaded weapon in your car for fear that an NRA member is going to attack you?
Get yourself to a therapist real quick and lock that weapon away for your own safety.
I don’t have a permit, I don’t own a gun, but I believe that those who wish to should be able to.

Posted by CliffWebb | Report as abusive

Thank you for this article. People need to start waking up to what’s happening here.

The original motive for the FL law was that someone defending his property had to wait a long time before the threat of a murder charge. That was inconvenient, maybe even injust, but it wasn’t fatal to him. The current law allows people to gun down anyone anywhere if they feel threatened and the burden of proof regarding the killer’s feelings are on the prosecution. That’s ridiculous. It means you can kill anyone. If no one witnesses the killing there won’t even be an investigation because obviously no one can disprove how you felt. As the Zimmerman case shows, you can even chase down friends, relatives, or strangers who are running from you and kill them — as long as they resist when you catch up to them.

Quick reply to OneOfTheSheep. The “old west” was nothing like what you think it was. People weren’t allowed to carry guns into town. They had to check them with the sheriff before entering town. The famous OK corral “shootout” happened when someone tried to resist checking his gun. At the time, the participants were considered murderers. It was only much later that anyone thought of trying to glorify what was nothing more than a sordid act of unnecessary violence. You should also keep in mind that these stand your (and everyone else’s) ground laws that allow people to gun one another down aren’t limited to white gunowners.

Posted by RobinInSanDiego | Report as abusive

@RobinInSanDiego,

“The “old west” was nothing like what you think it was. People weren’t allowed to carry guns into town. They had to check them with the sheriff before entering town.” Hogwash! Look at period photographs.

You can’t speak as to what was “normal” in a period where “the frontier” was a state of mind with “civilization”, law and order not always close behind. Depending on the level of local corruption, there are communities even today more subject to the rule of men than the rule of law.

I don’t think the “Zimmerman case” shows anything…YET. All too many wish to rush to judgment without knowing ALL applicable facts.

That’s why I do support this case going before a Grand Jury for OFFICIAL review and decision as to appropriate further action (or not).

I do know that “white gunowners” didn’t coin the phrase “Goin to Mayberry”.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

Really well written and researched article unfortunately the gun lobby is just too powerful for any President to mess with. There will be many more killings in the future and even that will not change gun laws one iota in USA.
The only way is, when a new generation of americans see the light and change this stupid law which is tied to the constitution. My heart goes out to the parents of this poor lad who was just shot at because of his color, and that is a fact. No politically correctness can change this FACT.

Posted by politicaljunkie | Report as abusive

@coughlip- Re gun ownership per capita: According to the latest report (September 2011) by the Small Arms Survey of the Geneva Graduate Institute of International Studies, the United States is #1 with 89 civilian firearms per 100 residents. Yemen is second and Switzerland third. Canada ranks 13th, with 31 guns per 100 people. In absolute numbers, the U.S. is first, followed by India and China.
For more details, see:
http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/fileadmin  /docs/H-Research_Notes/SAS-Research-Not e-9.pdf

Posted by BDebusmann | Report as abusive

@RobinInSanDiego,
You don’t have to tell me about Texas, I was raised there. You are cherry-picking examples.

Yes, killing another human being WAS a criminal act. In the middle of no where, what was a victim to do, call 911?

More than a few “Comancheros” visited a remote homestead, killed the occupants, took their possessions and tried to make it look like the Indians did it (and sometimes they DID). Life on the frontier was DANGEROUS! The average life span was arounf forty.

Up until there was law and order and established authority it was everyone for themselves. That situation today exists again in some places. The Sheriff didn’t protect you from Indians and brigands, YOU did. Even today, the gun on the belt of a “lawman” is there for HIS/HER protection, NOT yours.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

Aww Bernd, dang it. I love your writing but here we go, judging alleged crimes in the court of public opinion with lots of emotion and not too many facts. Why don’t we all gather in front of that dirty dog white-hispanic’s house with torches and pitchforks so we can drag him out and string him up like he deserves?

Or, as civilized humans perhaps we should let the criminal justice system review and adjudicate Mr Zimmerman’s actions while we pause for just a moment to review two irrefutable facts that you failed to mention.

Fact 1: Yes gun ownership is decidedly up, but interestingly violent crime is significantly down all across America _especially_ in concealed carry states.

Fact 2: If for some reason you _wanted_ to get shot in the United States, statistically your absolute best odds would be somewhere with the least firearms freedom…Chicago, New York, and Washington DC come immediately to mind.

You can tell the truth and still be a liberal Bernd,
they’re not mutually exclusive terms unless you make them so.

Posted by CaptnCrunch | Report as abusive

@CaptnCrunch: Guns up, crime down – already done that one.

http://blogs.reuters.com/bernddebusmann/ 2012/01/06/american-riddle-more-guns-les s-violence/

Posted by BDebusmann | Report as abusive

So, Mr. Zimmerman should have just continued to take the beating he was receiving? Perhaps young Mr.Martin had found the gun and was trying to take it. Somethings we will never know. But I will not lay and take a beating about the face and head and hope, that my attacker will stop before I am dead. Sorry. If but if I am carrying the attacker will be shot. And this seems to be what the witness saw.

Posted by TStewart | Report as abusive

First: Is it just me or did anyone else notice that Zimmerman is a “White” Hispanic.What is that all about? If it were about any other subject I am sure that he would be called Hispanic! Do they call Obama a “White Black”? Is this just another way to put the blame on White People?

Second: Why don’t we wait for all the evidence to be presented before we convict this guy? There are a lot of people screaming for his head who really don’t know that he is guilty of anything. What business is it of the Federal Government anyway? Is it really just Political Opportunity or do they know something that the rest of us don’t. I know which one I would choose, how about you?

Posted by crlos3 | Report as abusive

@captnkook
I love your kind of people in how you totally miss the point, change the subject with a question or try to compare apples to oranges. This tragedy occurred. It was and is being handled unjustly and as truth will alway win over a lie, Zimmerman will go to jail.

Posted by FuriousStyles | Report as abusive

Self appointed vigilante? White-Hispanic?

Wow Sheckey Debusmann you are way off in La-La-Land here. I also like the “timeline” you have going. Unfortunately, the parents cannot ‘prosecute’ anyone. They can bring civil charges. 1.5 Million peeps sign a petition demanding the arrest of Zimmerman? Again, BFD, they aren’t the ones who can make that call.

I think you were asleep in your writing class the day they taught writing.

Posted by LordOfTime | Report as abusive

“Police questioned Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, accepted his account of the incident, and let him go, following the letter or a 2005 Florida state law that allows citizens to use deadly force if they ‘reasonably believe’ they face harm. Unlike previous such cases, the teenager’s killing caught national attention, largely because social media served as a vehicle to carry charges of racism and unequal justice to a huge audience.”

The important limitation is the requirement that the person using force must “reasonably believe” that he or she faces, not just “harm” as the article says, but imminent death or serious bodily injury. This is one of three versions of the self-defense principle applied in American law, with the other two requiring various degrees of retreat (if possible) before deadly force is used. It does not create a right to use force, and it does not broaden the scope of self defense. It simply limits inquiry into whether the person using force retreated when determining whether there was a reasonable belief of death of immanent death or serious bodily injury.

The facts of this case, as they are publicly known, do not appear to support a self-defense justification, given the fact that the shooter followed and then confronted an unarmed victim. Based on facts that are not publicly known, the does appear to be room for a range of homicide charges. After all, when you go following after an unarmed person (even a teenager taking a shortcut through the private property of a gated community) and you point a gun at that person, you are unlikely to be found to be defending yourself if the gun goes off and the person you were pointing it act ends up dead as a result.

While there may be room for debate of “stand your ground” laws in various U.S. states, there is no reason to believe they have anything to do with the Trayvon Martin case — except as part of the politics that surround it.

Posted by Bob9999 | Report as abusive

If the NRA wants these gun laws they best crack down on who gets guns in first place, and if anyone who is unarmed is gunned down, there must be an open investigation on how or why the victim posed a real threat not a just perceived threat. I don’t own a gun and never want to, but if someone shoots at me, they better be able to prove I was a real threat (which I doubt I would ever be) not a perceived threat or else I’ll sue them and the NRA. You cannot go around pretending everyone is a perceived threat and shoot at them or kill them.

Posted by JLWR | Report as abusive

Why is it that when “Blacks are shot” (for whatever reason) by “Whites” there’s a “Hue and Cry” by said-Race across our nation but when a “White” is murdered by a “Black” that’s not NEWS-WORTHY as well??? OR WRONG??? Especially when our nation’s PRISONS are populated by more “Blacks” than any other nation on Earth, not only for murder either!!!

Gimme a break!

Let’s get REAL!

Posted by Middleclassman | Report as abusive

What is a “White Hispanic?” I don’t remember seeing that option on the Census form. Using that term when Zimmerman self identifies as a Hispanic is insulting and racist. Zimmerman father is white. His mother is Peruvian. President Obama’s mother was white and his father was Kenyan. Would you call President Obama a “white African-American,” or would you find the use of that term offensive?

As far as gun laws are concerned, you will never understand that there is a reason why America is different from the countries in the Eurozone. In the United States, fundamental individual rights cannot be sacrificed for the greater good of the community. This is a bedrock principle underlying the U.S. Constitution that few Europeans agree with or want to try and understand. This includes our Constitutional right to bear arms for self-defense, guaranteed by the Second Amendment to our Constitution. European history over the past century, on the other hand, is a bloody history of tyrants confiscating guns from law abiding citizens and murdering defenseless people by the tens of millions.

In addition, unlike most of the countries in the Eurozone, the United States has a right to a trial by jury under the rule of law. Unfortunately, writers who have an underlying gun-control agenda, such as Herr Debusmann, are exploiting the Trayvon Martin Tragedy to conduct a trial by news report and subvert the rule of law in the process. As a trial attorney with twenty years of experience defending people accused of gun violence I can tell you that the facts that are brought out in a trial under oath rarely resemble the facts that are described in early news reports of the incident.

Posted by ruleofwolves | Report as abusive

I apologize Berndt, yes you did write an excellent op-ed about “guns up, crime down”, but you didn’t carry the thought forward to this piece. Here we’re back to the “Wild West, guns guns guns, bad bad bad”. You are better than that sir.

And @furiousstyles, I didn’t change the subject, I spoke directly to it. We have a system of jurisprudence in this country and trial by public opinion usurps it horribly. If you claim the right of “innocent until proven guilty”, you must afford it to others.

You nor I know what happened that night and everything we read is hearsay. Rather than wait for informed investigation and release of Grand Jury findings you would draw blood based on opinion…yet you say I’m the kook.

Posted by CaptnCrunch | Report as abusive

Actually, some states here have wacky gun laws as judged by this Californian. I’m satisfied with ours here. We still have people shooting each other with legal and illegal weapons, though. The law doesn’t come into account until the deed is done. Given that there are 311 million people here, I think we do okay.

I think that, though there are gun carry laws in many states, most people aren’t toting regularly. They like to believe that they could, though, for whatever mentally imbalanced reason they could have. Mr. Zimmerman is a case, though. He left his home to ‘patrol’ with a gun. In California, Neighborhood Watch members do not ‘patrol’, you simply report any suspicious activity to the police. Mr. Zimmerman apparently did this and the police told him they would handle it and for him to back off to which he replied that he would continue his pursuit anyway. Zimmerman said the boy was acting suspiciously meaning, I think, he was a black man in a hoodie. He apparently confronted the boy and shot him when the boy resisted. There is no reason reported to believe that the boy attacked Zimmerman on his own. On the basis of my understanding of the event as I’ve described, Zimmerman should be locked up. Of course, I’m 3,000 miles away and may not know all the details. The Feds are there investigating and I hope I’ll be satisfied with that. They should investigate the Florida police while they’re at it. While blacks are treated in the States, and the world for that matter, with various degrees of disdain, the South has a 200 year reputation of holding blacks with their own special regard.

Posted by Bill_Greenlee | Report as abusive

Pretty simple logic here folks, if you stand against personal ownership of firearms then you stand against being responsible for your and your families safety. Who is going to protect you, the police? Nope. The police do NOT protect you in the ‘moment’. The police are only a deterrent to law abiding citizens that follow the law. Criminals do NOT follow the law and tend to act when the police are NOT present.

Benjamin Franklin said it best: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” An essential liberty is the RIGHT to defend your very life by any means necessary which we know as the RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. If you don’t like the Constitution of the United States of America then please move.

Posted by stambo2001 | Report as abusive

Stambo, I could protect my self and my household very well with a pump action shotgun. I do not need nor want a handgun to protect myself. I love the constitution and all that it stands for, and one of these things the founders put in was the possibility to change it in the future if the need arises. They where smart enough to know times change.

When the 2nd Amendment was written it was a time of musket loaders, now we have hand guns that have 10 times the killing power in a small package. The time is past to amend the 2nd amendment to the 21st century, yet still preserving the spirit of the 2nd amendment which is the forming of a militia against a tyrannical govt. You do not need pistols in a militia, you need rifles and the such.

Posted by USAPragmatist | Report as abusive

I’ve read and re-read as much as I could find on this now-national event. SO from the eyewitness accounts Zimmerman the local watch captian exists his truck breifly to determine which street he is on..(I am surmising he does this to advise the police of where they can find Zimmerman), and as Zimmerman re-enters his truck, he is pyhsically assaulted by Martin.
As a result of Martin’s single blow to Zimmerman’s face,
Zimmerman is lying on the concrete and Martin is slamming Zimmerman’s head into the concrete sidewalk. As indicated by the grass stains on the back of Zimmerman’s shirt, and the abrasions to back of Zimmerman’s head, and Zimmerman’s bloodied face. While Martin is pummeling Zimmerman.., Zimmerman is calling out for assistance as recorded by the 911 operator.
Now all of these events are verified by the police and eye-witnesses and the 911 operator..
Then in an act of self-defence Zimmerman pulls his pistol and shoots Martin in the chest.

So now the left-wing is calling this a “Hate Crime”?
And Spike Lee & New Black Panthers want vengance for hispanic man defending is own life..?

Posted by coldbluiceman | Report as abusive

There was not abrasions on the back of Zimmermans head. It was reported if they had taken him to the hospital rite away he would have needed stitches. Trevon was trying to kill him. Ignore mob rule. Clear zimmerman

Posted by ExhaustedSpark | Report as abusive

The author claims the existence of “previous such cases”. Which previous such cases? And the use of the word “vigilante” is not only biased and inflammatory, it is also a usage error. There is no evidence that Zimmerman was avenging a crime, so he is not a vigilante.

Posted by mheld45 | Report as abusive

Besides, who cares what the Congressional Black Caucus has to say? Would you expect them to do anything other than exploit this situation in order to further their tired victimization identity? A visit to their website indicates no ongoing concern about black on black violence. For whom does the CBC exist? To further the interests of black Americans? Or to further the interests and profiles of its members?

Posted by mheld45 | Report as abusive

I think there are a few things that could have made this a stronger argument.

First of all, calling Zimmerman a “self-appointed vigilante” is a bit of a loaded assumption. It is undeniable that there is still tons of controversy over weather or not he was acting in self defense or not. So who are we to pass that judgement on him? And i feel like having this as the foundation of the whole argument only weakens it because we still do not know if that gun made him a vigilante or saved his life. If it saved his life (which it very well could have) then this example will only be lending credence to the opposing argument that favors concealed weapons.

I also feel like the inclusion of the opinion of the Congressional Black Caucus was somewhat of a mute point. Of course they would consider it a hate crime. It is no surprise to anyone that they would find a white man shooting a black teenager a hate crime.

And finally, the part about the FBI not compiling statistics on such cases is just flat out wrong. Every case like this is documented and stored electronically nowadays. it would take a matter of seconds for the FBI to look up similar crimes in a search engine.

Posted by jonnykoop | Report as abusive

I think there are a few things that could have made this a stronger argument.

First of all, calling Zimmerman a “self-appointed vigilante” is a bit of a loaded assumption. It is undeniable that there is still tons of controversy over weather or not he was acting in self defense or not. So who are we to pass that judgement on him? And i feel like having this as the foundation of the whole argument only weakens it because we still do not know if that gun made him a vigilante or saved his life. If it saved his life (which it very well could have) then this example will only be lending credence to the opposing argument that favors concealed weapons.

I also feel like the inclusion of the opinion of the Congressional Black Caucus was somewhat of a mute point. Of course they would consider it a hate crime. It is no surprise to anyone that they would find a white man shooting a black teenager a hate crime.

And finally, the part about the FBI not compiling statistics on such cases is just flat out wrong. Every case like this is documented and stored electronically nowadays. it would take a matter of seconds for the FBI to look up similar crimes in a search engine.

Posted by jonnykoop | Report as abusive

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