Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Trayvon Martin remembered

One year ago today, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a self proclaimed neighborhood watch person, George Zimmerman. We don't need to rehash all of the original details of the shooting because that has been done repeatedly by me and many others. Let's look at where we are today with the case of the Trayvon Martin shooting and what has happened since this day one year ago. First, what is the status of the case? A Huffington Post article discusses the variety of opinions since the shooting. The trial will, of course, reveal information that is known and some that we may not know. It will hopefully get sorted out in a fair way by a judge and jury. As we know, there are people who believe that Zimmerman was justified in shooting Martin that night. Most, however, seem to fall on the side of believing that Martin would be alive today if George Zimmerman had left the matter to police after he called them initially to report a "suspicious" black male walking through the neighborhood. Without the gun, Trayvon would surely be alive. From the article:
However, sentiments surrounding the case have been split. While many have asserted that the former neighborhood watchman racially profiled the teen, others haveimplied that he was justified in his actions, an opinion that hits home for Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton.
It really is disheartening to know that people in general are trying to justify why this adult male went after this teenage, young man. You can’t justify it. You can’t give a reason why. Because he was wearing a hoodie? Because of the color of his skin? Because of what he thought?
[I]f this adult had remained in his vehicle, like the police dispatcher advised him to do, then this situation could have been avoided. He chose to follow my son. He chose to pursue my son. He chose to confront my son. And the result is my son’s death. I believe the responsibility lies on him as an adult because my son was not following him. He did not confront him. He did not chase him. And he did not have a weapon.

From another article at msnbc.com, a summary of the status of the case as it now stands:
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty and claimed self-defense, but his lawyers have decided against invoking the Stand Your Ground law that became a subject of heated debate in the weeks after the shooting. Under the law, a shooter does not have the duty to retreat before using deadly force if he or she feels his or her life is threatened. Zimmerman’s lawyers contend he did not have an ability to retreat and they will seek immunity under Florida’s self defense law.
Since last April’s arrest, new evidence has come to light. Forensic analysis revealed that Zimmerman’s DNA was not under Martin’s fingernails, as it might have been if a rough struggle ensued, nor was Martin’s DNA found on the murder weapon. However, images released by Zimmerman and his lawyers show him with a bloody face that could be consistent with such a struggle.
Zimmerman’s murder trial is scheduled to begin June 10, but on April 29, a judge will first hear arguments about whether Zimmerman can assert a self defense immunity. If that ruling goes Zimmerman’s way, the case could effectively be over.
George Zimmerman has sued NBCUniversal for defamation and the company has strongly denied his allegations.
Last week, the Martin family attorney filed paperwork suggesting that Trayvon’s parents may intend to sue Zimmerman.
The Martin family has also thrown their support behind efforts to repeal the Stand Your Ground law. A repeal bill has been filed this year, although it’s expected to face significant opposition in the Republican-controlled legislature. The panel commissioned by Governor Rick Scott to review the law in the wake of the shooting suggested no major changes. Democrats have criticized the task force, claiming its members were biased in favor of the law to begin with.
In addition, here is what is happening with George Zimmerman:
"...For example, did Martin handle the gun he was ultimately shot with? No, according to test results made public last May, which showed evidence of Zimmerman's hands on the firearm, but not those of the teenager he killed. And an analysis showed that scrapings from underneath the teenager's fingernails did not contain any of Zimmerman's DNA, as may rub off in a prolonged struggle.
Yet Zimmerman has said there was a bloody fight before the shooting, and he's got the pictures to prove it. Those include photos, reportedly taken minutes after the shooting, showing streaks of blood on the back of Zimmerman's head. And in December, a photo posted on Zimmerman's defense web site, one that his lawyers say was taken that same winter night, showed the defendant with blood on his nose and lips." (...) 
George Zimmerman's legal defense fund keeps pulling in cash -- and needs it
As of January 2, the fund had raised $314,099, according to a web site established by Zimmerman's legal team to solicit contributions to help pay for the defense effort. That's up from the $180,000 Zimmerman raised on his own before turning the money over to his lawyer last year.
What's the money been used for? The biggest single expense remains the $95,000 bond to secure his release from jail. The fund has also paid $61,747.54 in living expenses for Zimmerman and his wife, who are now living in an undisclosed rental home, at a price his legal team describes as "reasonable," in Seminole County, Florida. Other expenses include $56,100 for security, a little more than $76,000 in expenses for the law firm and the case, and $3,201 in miscellaneous expenses. Those include Zimmerman's GPS monitoring fees, office supplies and the occasional pizza for interns on the case, who work for free, according to the web site. (...) 
Zimmerman is not just fighting the prosecution, he's also suing NBC
In December, Zimmerman filed a lawsuit accusing the network of taking his comments to a 911 dispatcher out of context in an effort to sensationalize the case. The lawsuit accuses the network of removing nearly a minute of dialogue and dead air between Zimmerman and the dispatcher to bring comments that Martin appeared to be "up to no good" and "he looks black" closer together. The lawsuit also accuses NBC of falsely claiming Zimmerman used a racial epithet in describing Martin.
The network, Zimmerman's suit claims, used "deceptive and exploitative manipulations" to increase ratings.
The network's airings of the edited recordings in March 2012 contributed to death threats that forced Zimmerman into hiding, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit alleges that such coverage led to death threats against Zimmerman, who wears a bulletproof vest and was even dismissed from his college because it felt fellow students could be endangered. He also had to move from his neighborhood in Sanford, leading to various unforeseen expenses.
"Due to the defendants' journalistic crimes, Zimmerman has been transformed into one of the most hated men in America," the suit said.
NBC Universal disputes the accusations.
"There was no intent to portray Mr. Zimmerman unfairly," the company said at the time. "We intend to vigorously defend our position in court."(...) 
'Stand your ground' law doesn't apply, defendant's lawyers say
The Florida law, passed in 2006, says people who feel threatened don't have to retreat from danger, no matter where they are. And it became a huge point of contention after Zimmerman's arrest, with his supporters saying the incident demonstrated the precise need for the law and critics saying it encourages a "Wild West" or vigilante mentality.
But Zimmerman's lawyers say it doesn't apply to his case, at least not exactly.
"In this particular case, George did not have an ability to retreat because he was on the ground with Trayvon Martin mounting him, striking blows, therefore the Stand Your Ground 'benefit' given by the statute simply does not apply to the facts of George's case: it is traditional self-defense," Zimmerman's attorneys said on the web site detailing his legal case.
But they do intend to ask a judge to apply the immunity provisions of Florida's self-defense law to stave off a trial on the charges.
Unstable ground: The fine line between self-defense and murder
The law says people who use fatal force within the guidelines set out by the law are immune from prosecution.
A hearing on the issue could happen in April, according to the web site.
Sigh. There's a tremendous cost to these shootings- monetary, emotional, physical, loss of life, grief, anger, etc. And now the families of another shooting victim are dealing with an anniversary. George Zimmerman is charged with his death. With the pull of a trigger in a moment of anger and suspicion, the lives of many changed instantly. That is what happens when guns are so easily available and so easily used in moments like that of the death of Trayvon Martin. Trayvon was not perfect. Zimmerman was not perfect. Trayvon did not deserve to die one year ago today. We can do much more to prevent shootings like this. We must do more. Meanwhile, while we are waiting, the memorial vigils keep coming. There will be the usual vigils for Trayvon Martin today which have happened far too often in our country on anniversaries of other gun deaths and mass shootings:
Tuesday evening Fulton will be joined by Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, and their attorney Benjamin Crump for a moment of silence and candle light vigil in Union Square in New York.
There will also be candle light vigils at the University of Central Florida and in Fort Mellon Park in Sanford. Participants plan to light candles at 7:15 p.m., near the time Trayvon was killed, in honor of peace, justice and gun control.
In South Florida, the University of Miami’s USpeak Open Verse and Short Story Performance Series, along with the United Black Students, will mark the anniversary with a special program and reading by distinguished author Quraysh Ali Lansana.
America is tired of the candlelight vigils after high profile shootings. Since Trayvon Martin was killed, there have been another 30,000 deaths by firearm in American, including suicide, homicide and accidental shootings. On average, 32 Americans a day die from gun homicides. That is 32 too many. It's time to act to try to prevent some of those senseless shootings. Stand Your Ground laws are under scrutiny since the Trayvon Martin shooting and the November shooting in Florida of a young black male by a gun permit holder who shot Jordan Davis (17) after an argument over loud music in a car. These shootings are the result of a gun culture out of control. There is no reason for Stand Your Ground laws. We are starting to see the effect of the laws and they are not working as planned. In Florida, for example, from the linked article:
Florida's "stand your ground'' law has allowed drug dealers to avoid murder charges and gang members to walk free. It has stymied prosecutors and confused judges. • It has also served its intended purpose, exonerating dozens of people who were deemed to be legitimately acting in self-defense. Among them: a woman who was choked and beaten by an irate tenant and a man who was threatened in his driveway by a felon.
Seven years since it was passed, Florida's "stand your ground" law is being invoked with unexpected frequency, in ways no one imagined, to free killers and violent attackers whose self-defense claims seem questionable at best.
Cases with similar facts show surprising — sometimes shocking — differences in outcomes. If you claim "stand your ground" as the reason you shot someone, what happens to you can depend less on the merits of the case than on who you are, whom you kill and where your case is decided. (...)
Five years since Florida enacted "stand-your-ground" law, justifiable homicides are up
Some law-abiding citizens claiming self-defense go to prison without invoking 'stand your ground'(...)
Today, the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen, by a Hispanic neighborhood watch captain has prompted a renewed look at Florida's controversial law.
In the most comprehensive effort of its kind, the Tampa Bay Times has identified nearly 200 "stand your ground'' cases and their outcomes. The Times identified cases through media reports, court records and dozens of interviews with prosecutors and defense attorneys across the state.
Among the findings:
• Those who invoke "stand your ground" to avoid prosecution have been extremely successful. Nearly 70 percent have gone free.
• Defendants claiming "stand your ground" are more likely to prevail if the victim is black. Seventy-three percent of those who killed a black person faced no penalty compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white.
• The number of cases is increasing, largely because defense attorneys are using "stand your ground" in ways state legislators never envisioned. The defense has been invoked in dozens of cases with minor or no injuries. It has also been used by a self-described "vampire" in Pinellas County, a Miami man arrested with a single marijuana cigarette, a Fort Myers homeowner who shot a bear and a West Palm Beach jogger who beat a Jack Russell terrier.
• People often go free under "stand your ground" in cases that seem to make a mockery of what lawmakers intended. One man killed two unarmed people and walked out of jail. Another shot a man as he lay on the ground. Others went free after shooting their victims in the back. In nearly a third of the cases the Times analyzed, defendants initiated the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim — and still went free.
• Similar cases can have opposite outcomes. Depending on who decided their cases, some drug dealers claiming self-defense have gone to prison while others have been set free. The same holds true for killers who left a fight, only to arm themselves and return. Shoot someone from your doorway? Fire on a fleeing burglar? Your case can swing on different interpretations of the law by prosecutors, judge or jury.
• A comprehensive analysis of "stand your ground" decisions is all but impossible. When police and prosecutors decide not to press charges, they don't always keep records showing how they reached their decisions. And no one keeps track of how many "stand your ground" motions have been filed or their outcomes.
Claiming "stand your ground,'' people have used force to meet force outside an ice cream parlor, on a racquetball court and at a school bus stop. Two-thirds of the defendants used guns, though weapons have included an ice pick, shovel and chair leg.
The oldest defendant was an 81-year-old man; the youngest, a 14-year-old Miami youth who shot someone trying to steal his Jet Ski.
We have a problem in our country. When someone can kill another human being and walk away without even a trial to determine whether the killing was a justifiable homicide or not, our system has been usurped by special interests. What are those special interests? Why is this allowed? It has been pushed by the gun lobbyists for years and some state legislators didn't stand up to the NRA lobbyists as they should have. How can they possibly believe these laws make any common sense? Why do we let the NRA lobbyists influence their decisions when they are so clearly not in the interest of public safety?

After the Sandy Hook elementary shooting on 12/14, the public is awakened to what the NRA lobbyists have accomplished and what their agenda is. The public is saying they don't like it any more and they want reasonable measures to stop shootings instead of laws, like Stand Your Ground laws, that actually encourage people to shoot another human being. We have gone terribly wrong in our country. It's too late for the thousands of lives lost senselessly. It's too late for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. It's too late for the 20 little children massacred in Newtown, Connecticut. It's too late for the victims of the Aurora mass shooting, for the Sikh Temple shooting victims, for the Accent Signage Company shooting, for the 2 New York firefighters shot on Christmas Eve, for the many domestic shootings, for the many children shot every day, for the victims of gun suicides and accidental shootings. Our American gun culture has run amok. It's time not only for new laws to say that we won't tolerate this any more. It's time for a new look at the gun culture distinct to our own country. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people and animals. We should not take them so lightly or cavalierly have loaded guns around wherever we go. The result of this culture of fear and paranoia is lost lives. The time is now to fix the many problems with our current laws and our current culture. Reasonable people can see that what we are doing now is simply not working. Let's get to work in the name of Trayvon Martin.


I found this great article from Think Progress about 8 good things that have happened since Trayvon Martin was shot one year ago. Check it out here. I especially like the video make by Howard University students and alumni who put on their "hoodies" and ask if they look suspicious. It's a good question and one that deserves an answer.

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