In the thousands of right-wing words I have read and heard regarding the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case, one point I haven’t heard anyone make is that it was too bad that Martin didn’t have a gun. Zimmerman had a loaded gun and killed an unarmed teenager. He is hailed as a hero by people such as Ann Coulter and Geraldo Rivera. What if Martin had been carrying a gun? What might have happened then?
Imagine that Martin has a gun. He sees a strange man following him. He knows he isn’t doing anything wrong; Zimmerman didn’t even claim that in his call to the police. At some point, Martin becomes scared by this strange man following him in a furtive manner. As the man gets closer, Martin asks Zimmerman to stop following him. Zimmerman refuses. Martin pulls his gun and says, “Leave me alone.” Zimmerman pulls his gun and says, “Make my day, punk.” Bang!
If Martin had shot and killed Zimmerman, does anyone honestly think he would have been let go on the basis of self-defense? Seriously? The right-wing has praised Zimmerman for killing an unarmed teenager. If Martin had killed Zimmerman, would they have had the same reaction?
One incontrovertible fact in this case is that if Zimmerman had not left his vehicle, none of this would have happened. He was asked by the dispatcher to wait for the police, but he chose to follow Martin anyway. A Neighborhood Watch manual published by the “USAonWatch” program says, “It should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers and they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles.Members should never confront suspicious persons who could be armed and dangerous.”
What part of that gave Zimmerman the right to carry a loaded gun and follow Martin? Why didn’t he have to follow the rules?
When the Virginia Tech shooting occurred in 2007, one comment I heard over and over was, “If only the students or teachers had had guns, they could have stopped the massacre.” This comment was repeated after the Newtown shooting. The Gun In Every Hand people want everyone to be able to carry a gun. They seem to believe that if we all went around with loaded guns, crime would drop and innocent people would not get killed. So the logical extension of that belief is that Trayvon Martin should have been carrying a gun.
In 2010, Florida resident Marissa Alexander was threatened by her husband, who had a history of domestic abuse. When he attacked her, screaming “I will kill you!” she fired a warning shot into the wall. No one was hurt. Marissa is black. Did she get hailed as a hero for standing up for herself and for abused women? No. She got 20 years in prison. The judge ruled, “There is insufficient evidence that the Defendant reasonably believed deadly force was needed to prevent death or great bodily harm to herself.” Zimmerman stalked a teenager while carrying a loaded gun; that apparently was sufficient evidence to show he was in fear for his life.
The south has a sordid history of hunting and murdering black men. A few examples are Emmet Till, James Meredith, Michael Donald, Willie Edwards and James Byrd. White men believed they could do this with impunity. This case seems to reconstruct those horrible days. Even Zimmerman’s defense team said Zimmerman was concerned because there had been some break-ins by young black men. Martin was doing nothing of the sort, but in Zimmerman’s mind, Martin was fair game because he was a young black man. Period.
What this case has ultimately shown is the blueprint for the perfect murder. If I want to kill someone (which I would never do), all I have to do is buy a gun and then start tormenting my intended victim. I could stalk them on a dark night, or just make them feel threatened. When they have finally had enough and ask me to stop, and maybe even try to push me away or take a punch, I just have to shoot them and then claim I felt I was in grave danger. With my victim unable to refute my statement, why should I be prosecuted? My victim wouldn’t even have to be armed; I just have to say I felt threatened. This is essentially what Zimmerman claimed, and he is now a hero to the Right. Would Martin have been a hero to them if he had had a gun?
Jeanette Strong’s column appears every other Wednesday.