Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More To Trayvon Shooting

I saw this report from the Orlando Sentinel yesterday. Here are some excerpts:

On Feb. 26, when Zimmerman first spotted Trayvon, he called police and reported a suspicious person, describing Trayvon as black, acting strangely and perhaps on drugs.

Zimmerman got out of his SUV to follow Trayvon on foot. When a dispatch employee asked Zimmerman if he was following the 17-year-old, Zimmerman said yes. The dispatcher told Zimmerman he did not need to do that.

There is about a one-minute gap during which police say they're not sure what happened.

Zimmerman told them he lost sight of Trayvon and was walking back to his SUV when Trayvon approached him from the left rear, and they exchanged words.

Trayvon asked Zimmerman if he had a problem. Zimmerman said no and reached for his cell phone, he told police. Trayvon then said, "Well, you do now" or something similar and punched Zimmerman in the nose, according to the account he gave police.

Zimmerman fell to the ground and Trayvon got on top of him and began slamming his head into the sidewalk, he told police.

Zimmerman began yelling for help.

Several witnesses heard those cries, and there has been a dispute about whether they came from Zimmerman or Trayvon.

Lawyers for Trayvon's family say it was Trayvon, but police say their evidence indicates it was Zimmerman.

One witness, who has since talked to local television news reporters, told police he saw Zimmerman on the ground with Trayvon on top, pounding him — and was unequivocal that it was Zimmerman who was crying for help.

Zimmerman then shot Trayvon once in the chest at very close range, according to authorities.

When police arrived less than two minutes later, Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose, had a swollen lip and had bloody lacerations to the back of his head.

Paramedics gave him first aid but he said he did not need to go to the hospital. He got medical care the next day.

Should the police have closed the investigation as quickly as they did? Probably not, but if this is the account that they received from Zimmerman, and the evidence seems to support his account of the events, then I can kind of understand why they decided to leave it at that.

I think the real problem is all of the racial politics that are coming into play and how people are trying to turn this into more of a political commentary on the state of the nation.

Here is an interesting piece about how some in the media are manipulating this tragedy into some political action points. From the article:

But is the Martin shooting emblematic of a larger problem? Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the mainstream media here and abroad certainly are portraying it as such. That larger problem, of course, is lethal white racism and a criminal-justice system allegedly indifferent to the killing of blacks. At a rally Thursday night in Sanford, Sharpton said that “Trayvon represents a reckless disregard for our lives that we’ve seen for too long,” and warned that “they,” presumably whites, would try to trick black protesters into violence by “send[ing] in provocateurs.” “Blacks are under attack,” said Jesse Jackson on Friday from Chicago. “Targeting, arresting, convicting blacks, and ultimately killing us is big business.” MSNBC analyst Karen Finney claimed that “racist rhetoric” used by Rush Limbaugh and several Republican presidential candidates was responsible for Martin’s death.

So determined has the New York Times been to fit the shooting into its favored racial story line that it has been referring to the Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic,” contrary to its usual practice of referring to Hispanics without any additional racial characterization. The fact that Zimmerman’s father is white does not explain this departure from the Times’s racial protocols; the Times’s one-drop rule still applies to Barack Obama, who is, according to the Times and every other media outlet, America’s “first black president.” (The Grey Lady referred to Zimmerman for the first time on Friday simply as “Hispanic.”)

Times columnist Charles Blow dealt with the complicating factor of Zimmerman’s ethnicity with a simple duality: “Trayvon is black. Zimmerman is not,” he wrote last Saturday, presumably conferring on Zimmerman putative white status. The Rainbow Coalition has apparently broken down.

Here is an article that talks about the Standing Your Ground statute, and the need for some alteration in that provision of the law. I think what's especially interesting is how he also gets into how this shouldn't be cause for overreaction and needlessly placing gun control laws that are too restrictive. Another excerpt:

Contrary to what many liberal pundits have written, Florida should not reimpose a “duty to retreat” — the policy that prevailed before Stand Your Ground — on innocent people who face violent attackers. But it is true that the Stand Your Ground statute protects people who don’t merely stand their ground — it protects anyone who can reasonably claim he faced a serious threat, so long as he was “not engaged in unlawful activity” when the threat occurred

Therefore, to arrest Zimmerman, the police would need evidence that he was doing something illegal when Martin attacked him, or that he didn’t reasonably believe he faced a serious threat. Since we don’t know whether Zimmerman threw the first punch when he caught up to Martin, and we don’t know what Martin was doing when Zimmerman fired, this isn’t possible.

The solution is to make Zimmerman’s activity unlawful. It should be a crime to chase down a fellow citizen who runs away, except in certain situations (e.g. when a store owner pursues a shoplifter, as opposed to a man’s running after a teenager with no provocation whatsoever). One might imagine this was already a crime — such as assault — but Florida police officials have said it is not.

Law enforcement often fails — that’s why people need the tools to defend themselves, and the laws to protect them when they do so. But the proactive aspects of policing, including confronting individuals who seem to be “up to no good,” should be left to the professionals. If Trayvon Martin had been approached by an officer who identified himself as such, rather than a strange man who jumped out of an SUV and chased him, he would almost certainly be alive today.

And lastly, this article is in the case that you want to use this incident as a reason to believe in stricter gun control laws, Jeff Jacoby has evidence to the contrary in this article here. And I'll end with this lengthy excerpt:

To those with an emotional bias against guns, it goes without saying that more guns in private hands invariably mean more crime and violence. If the number of people carrying firearms on campus rises, then of course that campus is less safe. What could be more obvious?

But it isn’t obvious at all.

While the University of Colorado spent much of the past decade resisting the state’s concealed-carry law, Colorado State University complied with it. If the gun controllers are right, Colorado State should have seen a surge in crime, while its gun-banning sister institution should have been an Eden of security and lawfulness. That’s not what happened. As Clayton E. Cramer and David Burnett write in a new monograph for the Cato Institute, “crime at the University of Colorado has risen 35 percent since 2004, while crime at Colorado State University has dropped 60 percent in the same time frame.’’

Something similar happened after the US Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision striking down a gun ban in Washington, DC. The city’s mayor predicted in dismay that “more handguns in the District of Columbia will only lead to more handgun violence,’’ yet crime in the nation’s capital plunged. Murder nose-dived to its lowest rate in half a century, falling from 186 in 2008 to 144 in 2009 to 132 in 2010 to 108 in 2011.

To be sure, correlation doesn’t prove causation. But the experience of Colorado State and DC should come as no surprise. By now there’s so much evidence that higher rates of gun ownership lead to lower rates of crime that it isn’t hard to fathom why fewer and fewer Americans want to ban handguns. According to Gallup, just 26 percent of the public now thinks the private possession of handguns should be illegal — that’s down from 60 percent half a century ago. Roughly 1 of every 4 Americans reports keeping a gun to protect themselves or their homes. Having a gun makes many people — for good reason — feel safer.

How often firearms are used defensively is a much-debated question in American criminology. Respected studies over the years have come up with estimates that range widely, from nearly 110,000 defensive gun uses annually to as many as 2.5 million. Whatever the precise number is, it clearly isn’t trivial. An enormous amount of death, bloodshed, and suffering is prevented in this country by ordinary citizens with firearms.

That doesn’t mean terrible things can’t happen when a gun is used for protection. Trayvon Martin, an Orlando teen, was shot dead last month by a Florida man who claims he was acting in self-defense. Yet the teen carried nothing more deadly than a bag of candy, and police told the gunman — a neighborhood watch patrol member — not to follow him.

Such tragic tales inevitably draw the spotlight. Far more common, but far less likely to be played up, are cases where guns are used to scare off, resist, or thwart a genuinely dangerous criminal. For their Cato paper, Cramer and Burnett assembled nearly 5,000 news stories reported by the media between 2003 and 2011. Their catalogue includes instances of armed customers preventing a store from being robbed, of victims fighting off would-be rapists, of senior citizens defending against a home invader, of attempted carjackings foiled because the driver had a gun — even of self-defense against deadly animals.

Of course, most defensive gun uses never make the news at all. As Cramer and Burnett observe, “Man Scares Away Burglar, No Shots Fired,’’ is not a very compelling headline.

But with or without headlines, millions of Americans grasp instinctively that guns make us safer. For when honest citizens carry weapons, criminals are less likely to attack — and those who do are more likely to fail.

1 comment:

MikeReid said...

Boom. Mind-blown. Good blogpost Silva.