As a right wing, gun-toting, life member of the NRA, I am saddened and depressed about the death of Trayvon Martin – a story most of us would know nothing about, but for the media’s attempt to concoct a hate crime.
Furthermore, this right-wing gun nut does not stand with George Zimmerman. Nor do I consider Martin a street thug responsible for his own death, as is argued by some fellow conservatives on talk radio.
I am a journalist, so trust me on this one. Like all others in my field, I know nothing special pertaining to the last-minute details involved in the killing of Martin. None of us was there. I hope the jurors were correct in their finding and in their application of Florida law. This one simply cannot be fixed at the courthouse.
My only semi-special connections to this case are these: 1. I have long advocated concealed carry and; 2. I have teenaged boys who wear hoodies and frequently walk to a nearby 7-Eleven for Skittles and ice tea.
Oh, I know. Zimmerman may well have been within his rights to shoot Trayvon, under Florida law, and a jury has spoken. Zimmerman may have feared for his life, which may have been in danger up to the moment he pulled the trigger. I have no quibble with the jury.
The race issue is likely a fabrication by reporters, editors and TV news producers who know the value of a good race conflict.
Many of my white colleagues have a pathological obsession with race issues they don’t begin to understand. Would Martin be alive if he were white? Nobody knows. If Zimmerman were obviously black (his great grandfather was black), this would never have been news. Not a chance. On that topic, I am an expert. Black on black gun crimes are not national news. Knowing the media, it may not have been news if Zimmerman were a Jorg? rather than a George.
My issue with Zimmerman involves his decision to follow and pursue Martin in the first place.
A concealed gun can make the carrier feel more free and constrained. One may feel better about picking up scary-looking hitchhikers. One may feel more liberated to walk through dangerous parking lots at night. The gun also comes with responsibility and work. The permit-holder must remain sober conscious of the gun at all times. He or she must maintain it and keep it away from children and those who might misuse it. It gets locked up at night and unlocked in the morning. It requires special attire.
Mostly, while carrying concealed, one must actively avoid conflict. Any responsible person with concealed-carry privileges hopes to go through life never having to draw the gun on anything but a target at a range. Wearing the gun means one avoids arguments with a spouse, a neighbor or some belligerent drunk who stumbles from a bar. The gun means the user walks away from conflicts to avoid using it for anything other than stopping an aggressive and harmful attack, on self or others, that cannot be resolved in some better manner.
Zimmerman should have minded his own business on the night of Feb. 26, 2012. A teenager wandering a neighborhood – even one who looks like he might be on drugs – is not a crime.
In a free country, a law-abiding young man should be free to walk in the rain, for no apparent reason, without having to explain himself to anyone – including cops or a self-appointed watchman.
The gun should have provided Zimmerman with more rationale – not less – to avoid a non-essential conflict. Had he done so, as would most other concealed-carriers I know, Martin would have finished his Skittles and tea and continued to live a life that had barely begun. Zimmerman would not live in hiding and would not face years of civil litigation and a likely pursuit by the Department of Justice.
Fellow gun-rights advocates need to temper their whimsical support of Zimmerman’s actions and remember that gun rights are about more freedom, not less. In a free society, armed adults don’t stalk hooded teenagers who have done nothing more than walk in the rain.
A jury has spoken. Zimmerman had the right to shoot Martin. That doesn’t mean he did the right thing. It doesn’t mean the world is better off because a kid was shot and killed.
Wayne Laugesen is editorial page editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, where this op-ed originally appeared.