Shoot thy neighbour

Michael Hammond

March 26, 2012 | 1 Comment

A friend of mine recently shared an observation about the tragic death of Trayvon Martin in Florida that revealed a much deeper truth about American justice.

This friend, who has travelled for business in the United States for years and lives on the Ontario-Michigan border, is a keen observer of American culture, to put it simply. This is what my friend said:

If George Zimmerman, the man who gunned down Martin, truly believed he was in imminent danger, why would he not simply brandish his firearm and scare off this supposedly suspicious teen?

As my friend said, that gun would stop him in his tracks immediately. The question is why did Zimmerman follow through and shoot this teenager, whose only possessions other than his clothes, were a cell phone, a bottle of iced tea and a bag of Skittles?

Of course, I’m assuming something here. Taking out a gun would resolve a dangerous situation only if the person with the gun was certain that his or her would-be attacker was unarmed. The sad reality is that no one knows for sure in the U.S.

The news coverage has portrayed this event in simple terms. Most stories and reports suggested that 17-year-old Trayvon was clearly not armed or suspicious. Today, an African-American friend of Zimmerman came forward defending him by saying there is more to the story and that his friend did not target the teen because of his race.

If there is another side, why are we not hearing it?

Also, it should be noted that a group calling itself The New Black Panther Party has placed a $10,000 bounty on Zimmerman’s head.

The deeper truth here is that the right to bear arms has nurtured a culture of fear in the U.S., which has in turn strengthened the case for the right to bear arms. The consequences of this right and related laws, such as the Stand Your Ground law in Florida, are almost always deadly. If you assume that everyone is always armed, you tend to be more amenable to owning a gun yourself for protection.

The coverage of this tragedy is reflective of this sense of paranoia.

It’s hard to imagine what is more tragic – the senseless death of a 17-year-old teen or the inevitability that it will surely happen again and again.


One Response to “Shoot thy neighbour”

  1. Jared Milne
    March 27th, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

    If you’ve read the Spider-Man comics, or even just seen the movies, then you’re probably familiar with the saying that “with great power, comes great responsibility.”

    In my view, that statement applies just as much to political freedom as it does to power.

    Some people choose to have indiscriminate sex and end up catching STDs or having unwanted pregnancies. Some people deliberately choose to violate the speed limits and then cause accidents. Some people choose to own firearms, and then tragedies like the Trayvon Martin case occur.

    In every case, you could easily ask whether the people involved used their freedoms responsibly. There are plenty of gun owners out there who make the effort to properly store their weapons and only use them under very specific circumstances, but the people who shoot someone in a moment of temper or even just shoot someone by accident make all gun owners look bad by association.

    It’s been said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Obviously, that applies to always being vigilant to ensure that the state doesn’t abuse the power it has over the citizenry, but it should also extend to vigilance in ensuring that we as individuals use our liberties responsibly, both because of the harm we could do to ourselves and the harm we could do to society if we don’t.


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