Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on the veto of a Minnesota state legislature bill to expand the zone of the permissible use of deadly force from just the home to anywhere a citizen "felt threatened." I lauded Governor Dayton's veto of the bill, noting that police groups hated it as much as gun control people did. It was a bill designed to make our society armed and dangerous.

The tragic death of Trayvon Martin, shot by a self-proclaimed "neighborhood watch captain", brings that point home with deadly clarity. Florida has such a law, which the local police department relied on when it refused to arrest George Zimmerman, the man who shot the seventeen-year-old Martin. Now, some of the legislators who pushed the Florida bill are scrambling for cover.

The authors of Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law say the killer of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin probably should be arrested and doesn't deserve immunity under the statute.

The comments from the Republican lawmakers came the same day state Sen. Oscar Braynon, a Democrat, urged the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators to call for the law to be repealed, amended or subject to legislative hearings. ...

But the lawmakers who crafted the legislation in 2005 - former Sen. Durell Peaden and current state Rep. Dennis Baxley - said the law doesn't need to be changed. They believe it has been misapplied in the shooting death of Trayvon by a Sanford crime-watch captain, George Zimmerman.

Their argument is that Zimmerman doesn't qualify for the protection because he wasn't confronted by Martin. Zimmerman was the one doing the confronting, and did so even after the police department explicitly told him to back off when he called to report a suspicious Black man wandering around the gated neighborhood.

Oh, please.

Anyone with two working brain cells could have foreseen that some nutter cop-wannabe with a racist view of the world would use the law to go hunting down strangers of the wrong color who wandered into their neighborhood. It was precisely this kind of foreseeable consequence that so worried police officials in Minnesota. Such a law moves the impulse to shoot-to-kill from last to first place in self-defense options.

And the result of such a law is the death of a young man guilty only of walking while Black.

There are times when I actually hate being right.

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