I am not going to get drawn into the national race war surrounding George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. Al Sharpton and Ann Coulter need to shut up. All of the race-baiting commentators need to shut up and allow this case to take shape. What matters here is what happened in Sanford, Florida that left a teenage boy dead and a neighborhood watchman’s motives and actions questioned as they should be. The overriding question on my mind is this. Would Trayvon Martin be dead at the hands of a certified police officer? Would a confrontation between Trayvon Martin and a policeman have had the same result? The answer is obvious…probably not.
The problem is not that Trayvon Martin was profiled or picked on because of his race, the problem is that he was confronted by an armed neighborhood watchman, a rent-a-cop, if you will. I doubt, seriously, that George Zimmerman had anywhere near the training that law enforcement officers go through. I doubt, seriously, he had even the fundamentals of firearms training and/or use of force which is, basically, that you use only the force necessary to accomplish the enforcement action you are faced with.
The biggest problem for me is why George Zimmerman, an armed rent-a-cop, was charged with enforcing anything. The focus in Florida, where thousands gathered Thursday night in Sanford for an emotional rally, has primarily been on complaints that Martin may have been targeted because of his race. The uproar led Thursday to the temporary resignation of Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, who has been accused by demonstrators of bungling the case and criticized for not arresting Zimmerman. The focus needs to be on allowing neighborhood watchmen to carry and use firearms with minimal training. The idea that anyone who can get a firearm license can become a rent-a-cop is concerning.
What we know is this. Zimmerman enrolled in Seminole State College with hopes of becoming a law enforcement officer. He became the self-appointed protector of the streets around his home, although his neighborhood watch organization was not officially registered. He called the police department at least 46 times since 2004 to report everything from open garages to suspicious people. In 2005, according to police records obtained by the Orlando Sentinel and other news organizations, Zimmerman was twice accused of either criminal misconduct or violence. He had a concealed-weapon permit and had a black Kel-Tec semiautomatic handgun and a holster the night Martin died.
Trayvon Martins family, friends and supporters insist the young man was profiled…by a rent-a-cop. Zimmerman’s father has sought to emphasize his family’s diversity in hopes of saving his son from condemnation as a racist. While images of protests from across the country skitter past on television screens, the elder Zimmerman has tried to do what others have been doing, in various ways, for days: define his son. George is “a Spanish-speaking minority,” the father wrote in a letter delivered to the Orlando Sentinel. “He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever.” George, the father insisted, was more like the boy he killed than people thought. George was a minority — the other — too.
With all of the noise from both sides arguing about race, a most important discussion is not being held and that is laws that allow citizens to shoot and kill each other when we feel threatened. Texas has such a law known as the Castle Doctrine which allows, basically, for the use of deadly force in certain situations. The Texas law is, apparently, similar to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law which allows for the use of deadly force in certain situations. The difference is that in Texas, generally, these cases are vetted by a Grand Jury.
The case involving Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman is tragic but rather than scream and yell about profiling and racism, how about a discussion surrounding the use of deadly force by anyone with a gun permit. That is the issue. While the likes of Al Sharpton, Ann Coulter and the New Black Panthers fan the flames of racism, the real issue is that a guy with a gun permit shot and killed someone on a street with was not charged and the case was not presented to a Grand Jury. Is this really OK? Are we OK with this kind of street justice? I think not.