The sad shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida by George Zimmerman has exploded across the media and country. As a result, many groups have used this tragedy as a symbol of larger issues that each group seeks to exploit.
1. “Walking While Black.” This is close to Driving While Black that many of my African-American friends tell me about. As a middle-aged, white male with silver hair who often dresses in suits and ties, I’m never stopped for anything–which goes to show that this concern by people of color is true. Certainly, we all have to be careful for our safety, but for this profiling to still be a problem in America is sad and frustrating.
2. Gun Groups. Although they express sorrow at the death of Trayvon Martin, they still insist that it’s the individual, not the law, that is the problem. The stand your ground law in many states simply tries to even the playing field between criminals and innocent people–giving the innocent person legal protection if they shoot to kill.
3. Anti-gun Groups. These people disagree and say the new laws give legal cover to the fringe of crazy people who are intent on harming others. Under previous law, there certainly was a right to self-defense. However, you couldn’t use more force against the attacker than he used against you. For instance, if you were attacked by an unarmed person who wanted to punch you, it would probably not be self defense if you pulled out a gun and shot him. That would be using force out of proportion to the threat. The new stand your ground laws throw the idea of equal force out the window. Now, by simply saying that you acted in self defense, you escape legal liability.
During the research for my new novel, Fallout, I studied some of these fringe groups, vigilantes, and armed militias in the U.S. If you think they were scary before the stand your ground laws, this gives all these nuts legal cover to act on their fears of rampant criminal activity and intrusive governments. I think we’re in for scary times…
What do you think?