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The Gift of the Gun

Zimmerman is not guilty, Martin is still dead

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, July 17, 2013.

So, George Zimmerman, once merely pudgy and now a bloated non-entity with a gun he really wanted to use, has become the poster boy for the NRA. The six woman jury in Sanford, Florida, let him walk for shooting Treyvon Martin to death. Many, including former President Jimmie Carter, have said the way the case was set up, the jury had no choice. The general feeling is the prosecution over reached and charged things that could not be proven.

Tavis Smiley says he is waiting for the NRA to say that if Martin had been armed, this wouldn't have happened. There's talk of boycotting Florida, and there are hysterics, but despite Fox News' desire and lies to incite, there were no riots or anything close, there was nothing but reasoned response in opposition, so different from the Rodney King case and many others in our past. Of course, King wasn't killed or shot, he was just beaten by cops with their clubs because the four of them were physically scared of King. Video showed them beating the guy in sequence on the ground.

We have no video of the Martin killing, which is too bad, almost unbelievable these days. The only witness on his behalf was an obese young woman, not well educated, angry at being exhibited before a national audience, with whom Treyvon was chatting on the phone while Zimmerman followed him against direct police suggestion. Martin was going home, he had every right to be there, he had done nothing wrong to stir suspicion other than he was black wearing a hoodie. He was seventeen, but the photo of his recently dead body makes him look younger. He was a kid. He'd been absent from school and had been suspended three times that year. He was also caught for minor graffiti, and he had traces of marijuana in his system and nothing else. That's not a dangerous kid nor a bad one.

Zimmerman had been charged with domestic violence against a former fiancee, but it was described as minor and he'd received a reciprocal restraining order against her as well. He was employed as an insurance adjustor and in line for an associate degree in criminal justice. He wanted to be a judge, but had no legal training although in the South, that may not be required. He was married, and had been chosen for Neighborhood Watch. He'd gotten a legal gun after his wife had an incident with a pit bull. There had been more than a few burglaries in his housing area. Except for the gun and establishing contact against police advice, he did nothing wrong either.

In short, what probably happened is the kid was annoyed at being followed and when called by Zimmerman - who had no police authority whatever, none - things were said and Martin, who was four inches taller than Zimmerman, may well have smacked the guy, may even have been kneeling and punching him when he was shot.

A similar thing happened to me in 1971 in Florida when a pudgy guy in a car saw me walking to my apartment after 2AM and drove along side me wanting to know who I was and where I was going. I thought he was weird and told him off, and he yelled "stop!" and demanded to see ID. He lept from the car and ID'd himself as security for the first time. He had a gun. If I'd been black, I'd not implausibly have been shot. But because I was white and because he eventually ID'd himself, we were okay. I was doing nothing wrong, I was just suspicious. But, you know, white.

Had the guy Zimmerman approached been white, would the gun have factored in? And really, these days, isn't Neighborhood Watch better served by phone cameras to ID the suspicious people? Isn't that, really, all they are allowed to do, since they have no police power whatever?

It's questioned whether race played the primary role, or no role at all. Even though Zimmerman has black ancestors through his Peruvian mother, he ID's as white. Nothing to indicate he was racist beyond civilized behavior. Zimmerman's defense was that based on the Stand Your Ground law, when Martin came at him, he was okay to draw and shoot.

But the thing is, Zimmerman against police advice inserted himself in that situation that did nothing to ID Martin and nearly made the shooting inevitable. Martin had zero obligation to respond to Zimmerman, who had no reason to incite Martin, no reason to leave his car and confront him. The gun gave him the courage to do so, and look what happened.