Wednesday, March 14, 2012

When More Citizens Have Guns

Seventeen year old Trayvon Martin was an ordinary teenage boy living in Florida. His life tragically ended one night in late February when he left his home to walk to a local convince store to buy some snacks for the NBA all-star game. No, he wasn't snatched up by a sexual predator. Rather, he met his end at the hands of a "law abiding" gun owner who could be the poster child for the NRA.

He was shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman inside this gated community, who admitted to killing the child. Zimmerman had seen the black teen walking down the road, and thought he appeared "suspicious." So he called 911. Had he listened to the 911 operator, who repeatedly told him to stay inside his vehicle and not confront the teen because police were on the way, this story would have ended there. But instead, Zimmerman, who is described by a Martin family lawyer as a "homeowners association loss cannon," ignored this advice and went out to confront the teen.

Although it is unclear precisely what happened next, it is believed that Zimmerman stalked the teen, following him down the road and initiating an argument. During this confrontation, Zimmerman got out his 9mm gun, and shot the unarmed teen dead in the street, just 70 feet from his stepmothers home. Zimmerman would tell police that he acted in self defense, a puzzling claim, considering the teen was doing nothing wrong and Zimmerman was the one who confronted him. It's sort of like me walking up to you at Wallmart, trying to harass you or detain you, and then shooting you dead when you resist this action and calling it self defense.

As of this posting, Zimmerman had not yet been arrested, though the case was being reviewed by the district attorney. Hopefully justice will be done, and this child killer will get the same treatment as any other child killer receives. But there is a broader issue at play here.

Gun advocated love to make the claim that lives are saved when everyday citizens tote their guns around. This is a factual lie, refuted by research. (See our publication Guns For Protection) Safety advocates know better: most gun crimes aren't committed by career criminals, but by pissed off gun owners. So the more people you have carrying around loaded weapons, the more of these "loose cannon" situations you have ready to go off. The more people carrying guns, the more chances for misunderstanding, mistaken assessments, poor decisions, and unnecessary killings.

As more states continue to encourage every yahoo who owns a gun to be their own vigilante do-gooder, even passing laws allowing someone to shoot a fleeing person in the back so long as they "feel" threatened, we'll encounter many more tragedies like this. Tragedies where gun vigilantes such as this turn an otherwise innocent situation into a deadly encounter, slaughtering a child who is merely walking back to his house after buying candy. The most sickening part of it all is that this type of 'make my day' shoot first and ask questions later mentality is exactly what gun advocates want to see more of.

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