Monday, April 02, 2012

Trayvon Martin / "Stand Your Ground" Pieces - for Time Magazine, Miami Herald & Tampa Bay Times

Over the past few weeks I've come across some very well written pieces on the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The writing has been for a variety of publications with each piece containing something a bit different around the tragedy and Florida "Stand Your Ground" law that's so far kept the shooter, George Zimmerman, from being charged by prosecutors.

The largest article was "The Law Heard Round The World" by John Cloud for the latest issue of Time Magazine. Cloud notes that the exact exchange between Zimmerman and Martin is unknown to the public (there are apparently witnesses, though), but what is known is that Zimmerman was told by a 911 dispatcher not to pursue Martin, but then followed and shot in during the course of a confrontation. An interesting post-script was also tacked on to the piece by noting that "officers did indeed take Zimmerman into custody that night and questioned him; according to reports, police also asked the prosecutor for an arrest but were refused."

This information takes the case heavily towards an examination of the "Stand Your Ground" law that prosecutors would have been following in (at least for now) deciding not to charge Zimmerman. Two excellent pieces about the law (which is also detailed well by Cloud) were in the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. For the Times, Ben Montgomery wrote "'Stand your ground' law protects those who go far beyond that point" and David Simon (creator of "The Wire" for HBO) provided "Opinion: Welcome to Florida. Beware of gunmen standing their ground." Montgomery details how the people who wrote "Stand Your Ground" assert that it wouldn't provide safe haven for Zimmerman in this case, but that the laws wording and the legal systems usage of it may make it entirely applicable to this case. Along these lines, Simon relates a story from 1998 Baltimore where prosecutors made the decision to not give free reign to shooting in the interest of property protection. Additionally, Simon notes how "Stand Your Ground" or laws of its ilk in effect consider everyday citizens to be like police (but, without any of the screening or training) in how we evaluate whether their actions at any given time are justified.

Finally, the same April 9 issue of Time that contained the Cloud article also had the Joe Klein column "Triumph of the Gun Fetishists." There's not a large amount of content on Trayvon or "Stand Your Ground", but what is covered is what seems be be a push against gun laws in the US. Klein specifically notes the National Rifle Association and efforts on behalf of the "National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act" that three years ago narrowly failed Senate approval, but could well come back up again. If passed in a similar form, it would provide "back-home" gun control (or lack thereof) for any residents visiting another state or location with different restrictions around carrying guns.

Trayvon's death is a tragedy and it certainly appears that Zimmerman created the confrontation that resulted in the shooting. What's fascinating in an entirely macabre sort of way is now whether a law passed (behind a movement passing these types of laws) will mean that Zimmerman can't even be tried by a judge and jury of his peers. It doesn't take away from the loss of Trayvon, but his shooting really brings into the open a direction that our society seems to be taking with what we allow pass into law.

From this perspective, it reminds me of Representative Gabrielle Giffords being shot, six people killed and there then seeming to be little discussion of Arizona gun laws and how it it was for the killer, Jared Loughner to obtain his 9mm Glock pistol used in the attack.