Monday, July 15, 2013

Stand Your Ground

With the George Zimmerman trial concluded an an innocent verdict handed down -- a result which should surprise absolutely no one, by the way -- I find myself at once in sympathy and odds with the many people around the country who feel he should have been found guilty.

As the facts of the case stand, George Zimmerman is not guilty but neither is he innocent and the reason for this distinction is Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, a law which absolves those who carry concealed weapons from the responsibility to avoid conflict.

The question of George Zimmerman's innocence centers, not upon who threw the first punch in his encounter with Trayvon Martin but upon his decision to exit his car and confront an unknown person who was, by every account, doing nothing illegal.

Imagine yourself in Martin's shoes -- alone, after dark, in a neighborhood not your own when confronted by a stranger who deliberately chooses to exit his vehicle to accost you.  Who would not feel threatened in such a situation?  Who would not react defensively?

What transpired between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin is something that is known but to the dead, Mr Zimmerman, and God but what is undoubtedly true is that Zimmerman's willingness to confront Martin was at least partially informed by the knowledge that he had a weapon.  If Zimmerman did not exit his car with the intention of shooting Martin, he at least did so with -- and possibly because of -- the knowledge that he could.

It is for this reason that Stand Your Ground laws are so foolhardy.  The empower armed individuals to engage in antagonistic behavior secure in the knowledge that, if confronted, they are armed while simultaneously denying those that they antagonize the knowledge that they are dealing with a hostile and armed person.

No sane person would throw the first punch in a fight with a potential shooter and thus the only remaining scenarios for the Trayvon Martin shooting are ones in which Zimmerman bated or antagonized Martin into throwing a punch either so he could shoot him or because he could shoot him.

Either way, Zimmerman deliberately sought to impose his will and his idea of law and order upon a law-abiding stranger who had done nothing wrong, disturbed no peace, and broken no law.  Things escalated, and now that child lies dead.

And while Florida's stand your ground statutes prevent us from declaring George Zimmerman guilty, simple morality prevents us from declaring him innocent.

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