By David Freed |
Florida's so-called "stand your ground" law was a deadly mistake and should be repealed. But that law is only one chapter of a larger, tragic story—the gun lobby pushing to realize its vision of an America where dangerous people like George Zimmerman walk among us, with a vigilante mentality, carrying the guns to make that mentality deadly.
In practice, "stand your ground" really means "shoot first and ask questions later." These laws, enacted in over 20 states, radically changed the centuries-old legal rule that the use of lethal force in self-defense should be a last resort, when there is no avenue of escape or avoidance for a person under attack. According to police and prosecutors, these laws have allowed countless dangerous individuals to literally "get away with murder" by claiming "self-defense" in situations where deadly force easily could have been avoided.
But while Florida's "shoot first" law may be the reason George Zimmerman is still free and uncharged with any crime, Trayvon Martin is dead because George Zimmerman had a gun. Whatever happened between them that night, if George Zimmerman did not have a gun with him, Trayvon Martin would be alive today.
And how did George Zimmerman come to be carrying a gun on that fateful night? It is because Florida's abysmal gun laws allowed him, despite his arrest record and history of violence, to carry a loaded, hidden gun in public. George Zimmerman embodies the National Rifle Association's vision for America—a dangerous, armed man, driven by a mentality of fear and looking for a chance to justify his decision to carry a gun by finding a reason to use it.
George Zimmerman is the NRA.
Incredibly, just days after Trayvon Martin was shot and killed, the NRA's allies in the U.S. Senate introduced legislation that would force states with sensible restrictions on carrying concealed weapons to allow Zimmerman, and thousands like him, to carry loaded, hidden handguns in their states in defiance of those restrictions. Under this dreadful bill, George Zimmerman, even after his shooting of Trayvon Martin, could carry a concealed semiautomatic in Times Square. It should be called the "George Zimmerman Armed Vigilante Act."
George Zimmerman took the life of Trayvon Martin. But make no mistake: The NRA, and the politicians who do its bidding, put the gun in George Zimmerman's hands.
About Dan Gross President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
Michael Zalewski Member of the Illinois House of Representatives
Larry Pratt Executive Director of Gun Owners of America