I am a progressive liberal because I was taught to have compassion...

"A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs, who, however, has never learned to walk forward.
A liberal is a man who uses his legs and his hands at the behest ... of his head." - Franklin D Roosevelt

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Conceal And Carry, Trayvon Williams, And Why Florida Law Will Allow Tragedy To Happen Again

Friday, March 9th I read an article on The Ed Show's MSNBC website about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.  At that time, the 9-1-1 tapes had not been released.  But based upon the info as reported by MSNBC and their sources, it struck me even then that this echoes concerns I have for "Conceal & Carry" laws.

My comments from that day:

(screenshot capture from http://progressivepeorianblogspot.newsvine.com/)

Now, before the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is proffered up, let me assure readers that I unequivocally believe in the right to own a firearm in the United States...(continued)

...I'm just not convinced everyone should be allowed to carry one with them out in the public.  Nor do I think innocent people should have to suffer as a result of radical agendas and laws passed by GOP state legislators.

Case and point: the City of Sanford Florida's response to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

In a letter from Sanford Florida City Manager, Norton Bonaparte Jr., he answered the question, "Why was George Zimmerman not arrested the night of the shooting?", with the following response:

"When the Sanford Police Department arrived at the scene of the incident, Mr. Zimmerman provided a statement claiming he had acted in self-defense which at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony.  By Florida Statue, law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time.  Additionally, when any police officer makes and arrest for any reason, the officer MUST swear and affirm that he/she is making the arrest in good faith and with probable cause.  If the arrest is done maliciously and in bad faith, the officer and the City may be held liable..."
So officially, the City of Sanford is saying that because Mr. Zimmerman basically said, "I didn't do it" and because he "says so" they legally have to drop it?  Yeah, kinda.

According to St. Petersburg law firm, Hessinger and Kilfin Law, "The Florida legislative session law notes demonstrate the true intent behind the new law stating, 'The Legislature finds that it is proper for law-abiding people to protect themselves, their families, and others from intruders and attackers without fear of prosecution or civil action for acting in defense of themselves and others'"

Sanford City Manager, Bonaparte continues on to answer another question in the letter, "Why did Mr. Zimmerman have a firearm in his possession while acting in the role of a neighborhood watch member?".  This is their official answer: 
"Mr. Zimmerman holds a concealed weapon permit issued from the State of Florida.  He is authorized to carry the weapon in a concealed manner wherever Florida Statute dictates.  Neighborhood Watch programs are designed for members of a neighborhood to be 'the eyes and ears' for police and to watch out for their neighbors.  They are not members of the Police Department nor are they vigilantes.  Training provided by law enforcement agencies to Neighborhood Watch organizations stresses non-contact surveillance of suspicious situations and notifying police of those situations so that law enforcement can respond and take control of the situation.

Mr. Zimmerman was not acting outside the legal boundaries of Florida Statute by carrying is weapon when this incident occurred.  He was in fact on a personal errand in his vehicle when he observed Mr. Martin in the community and called the Sanford Police Department."
Read Bonaparte's entire letter here.

Look Florida (Sanford, specifically), get it straight; either allow citizens to carry guns everywhere or allow them to protect themselves to the point of avoiding prosecution.  Don't allow both.  In Trayvon's case, it might have ended up as a physical assault that Zimmerman didn't get arrested for (no "Conceal & Carry", yes "Stand Your Ground"), or maybe it would have ended in a gun case he would be arrested for (yes "Conceal & Carry", no "Stand Your Ground") - instead Trayvon was the one who suffered double-jeopardy: shot dead with no possibility of justice (prosecution) for his assailant.

If you DO live in Florida, don't be surprised if something like this happens again.  Maybe next time it won't be a kid.  Maybe next time it will be your mother in the parking lot at the grocery store.  Maybe next time it will be your husband at a restaurant with co-workers. But don't be surprised when it happens again.

For those that DON'T live in Florida, just know that people who are allowed to carry a firearm in public may not have the proper training to use it in public.  They may suffer from fatigue, impairment, or many more potential factors.  What if this person using a firearm in public accidentally shoots a bystander?  What if this person decides to transition from "Neighborhood Watch" to vigilante?

It will be too late to have this discussion.  It is too late for Trayvon Martin, but doesn't have to be for anyone else.  

Listen to the 9-1-1 calls from the night.  Pay close attention at around 2:24, where it sound like Trayvon yells for his mom right before he's shot dead...then picture that scenario in your head and reconsider whether or not the laws about "conceal & carry" or "stand your ground" really do keep citizens safe.

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