I haven’t posted about the Trayvon Martin tragedy because, really, what could I say that hasn’t already been said?
In my opinion, whatever happened between George Zimmerman and Trayvon immediately before Zimmerman shot him–whether there was an altercation or not– is legally and morally irrelevant to the question of guilt; when Zimmerman intentionally ignored the police dispatcher’s order not to follow Martin, he became responsible for what happened next.
As evidence has emerged, the one thing that seems indisputable is that George Zimmerman is a cowboy–one of those all-too-common sheriff/policeman wannabes with short fuses and delusions of righteousness. It is the role of public safety and public policy to reign in such people–indeed, protecting citizens from those who would harm them is the most basic function of government.
The passage of “Stand Your Ground” laws has enabled, rather than impeded, the cowboys. In 2010, a survey by the Tampa Bay Times found that Florida’s rates of “justifiable homicide” had tripled since the law’s passage. Kendall Coffee, former U.S. Attorney for Southern Florida, has condemned the law as “a license to kill.”
“Stand Your Ground” laws are part and parcel of what seems to be an effort to recreate the “justice system” of the wild West–at the same time we are choking off resources for law enforcement, we’re passing laws that protect vigilantes.
And young men like Trayvon Martin pay the price.