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.
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Monday, July 15, 2013

We're all safer now?

I don't know about you, but I sure as heck don't feel safer knowing that not only did George Zimmerman get his gun back after the trial but he will continue to carry it. From this article:
"George Zimmerman will get his gun back following his acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin -- and his attorney believes he needs it "even more" than before.
"'Yes. [There's] even more reason now, isn't there? There are a lot of people out there who actually hate him, though they shouldn't," Mark O'Mara told ABC News."
And further, something from the article that gave me whiplash:
"O'Mara, who led Zimmerman's defense, said that his client plans to continue carrying the weapon and now wears a protective vest when he appears in public, ABC News also notes.
"I think that he feels truly in his heart that if he did not have that weapon that night he might not be here," O'Mara said. "[He] would have continued to get beat even though he was screaming for help.""
What? Is O'Mara kidding? If Zimmerman had not had his gun and the Florida Stand Your Ground law to back him up, Trayvon Martin would likely not be dead today and we wouldn't be talking about this. Without that gun, Zimmerman would likely not have felt bold enough to get out of his car and follow Trayvon. This has been my thesis over and over on my blog. I would like to share this article written by Nina Vinik for the Chicago Times because it is what gun violence prevention advocates believe. From the opinion piece:
A 2012 study by psychologists James Brockmole and Jessica Witt found that carrying a gun makes the carrier more likely to perceive that the other party in an encounter is also carrying a gun, and as a result, to engage in threat-induced behavior.
Research also shows that states that have very permissive concealed weapons laws, like Florida does, have higher rates of gun violence. And although the Zimmerman case ultimately did not involve Florida’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” law, researchers from Texas A&M found that states that have passed such laws making it easier to use a gun in self defense have more murders.
Laws affect behavior. Some laws criminalize certain conduct to deter people from acting in ways that are harmful to society. Other laws enable conduct. In Florida and in other states, we have made it easier and easier for firearm owners to take their guns anywhere and everywhere. And people who carry guns sometimes use them. And sometimes innocent teenagers die.
By considering the question “what if George Zimmerman wasn’t armed,” we are forced to consider whether we are better off living in communities where more and more people carry guns and feel empowered to use them. Regardless of the jury’s verdict in the Zimmerman trial, the overwhelming evidence shows that we are not.
Gun rights advocates argue that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The George Zimmerman case underscores the fallacy of this argument. Until he shot and killed an unarmed teenager, neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman saw himself the quintessential good guy with a gun.
Exactly. As I said before, we don't really know what happened before the shot rang out because the victim is dead. What we do know is that Trayvon Martin is dead because George Zimmerman had a gun and found a young black man walking through the neighborhood to be suspicious. This is the fear and paranoia promoted by the corporate gun lobby and the NRA lobbyists to get people to think they need guns wherever they go in public places. It's the same paranoia used to pass Stand Your Ground Laws in many states. Florida was the first to get one passed. This article highlights how it has actually worked out for Florida defendants and victims:
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. (...) 
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 
Raise your hand if you think the Florida law sounds like a good idea. Clearly the law was written ambiguously on purpose as is often the case when the NRA writes gun policy. Laws matter. Lives depend on these laws and how they are interpreted and enforced. In the case of Trayvon Martin's death, I believe that law made a difference. From this Washington Post article:
Florida’s gun laws, for instance, makes cases like this one likely and even inevitable. Would Zimmerman have left his car and followed Martin without the comfort of the cold steel strapped to his body? It’s unlikely. But Florida’s laws are such that the kind of people who want to get out of their car and tail teenagers who scare them can carry guns when they do it, and Florida’s laws are such that if there’s then a confrontation and the gun goes off the person holding the gun is very likely to walk free. 
So to get back to my original point- George Zimmerman may feel as if his life is in danger after the anger over the verdict. We all hope that there will be no violence towards him or anyone else in the aftermath of this controversial trial and the not guilty verdict. But the Florida law that informed Zimmerman on that dark and rainy night in Sanford, Florida, allows Zimmerman to act again if he feels justified. We can argue about whether Zimmerman used common sense the night he shot Trayvon Martin. We can argue about whether what he did that night was justified. We can argue about who was on top in the alleged fight that occurred that night. But once Zimmerman got out of the car with his loaded gun strapped to his hip, the die was cast. None of this had to happen. In Florida, where conceal/carry permit holders understand that they can use a gun in perceived self defense and get away with shooting someone, things are different. And Zimmerman knew full well what that law meant.

Today, Zimmerman is free to be in his community if he so chooses with his loaded gun on his person. Most likely he will not do so for a period of time for obvious reasons. There's no telling what he might be feeling now and hopefully he will not decide to use that gun once again. Our laws allow people like Zimmerman to get their gun rights and their guns back even after a trial where there was no dispute that he used a gun to kill someone. It doesn't make any sense given the circumstances. But then, some of the gun laws in American are not based on common sense. They are based on the mythical fear and paranoia that the gun lobby promotes. Because of that circular reasoning, we are not safer in our communities. Only in America would this scenario even be possible.

2 comments:

  1. "If Zimmerman had not had his gun and the Florida Stand Your Ground law to back him up, Trayvon Martin would likely not be dead today and we wouldn't be talking about this."

    I know you have an agenda and that is ok, everyone does. You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.Zimmerman DID NOT use the Stand Your Ground law in his defense. http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/30/justice/florida-zimmerman-defense

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