By Alexander Strada
Western Sun opinion editor
“This guy looks like he’s up to no good or on drugs or something, it’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about,” said George Zimmerman, a crime watch volunteer in Florida, in a 911 call shortly before murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. “These a–holes always get away.”
Trayvon, who was spotted by Zimmerman walking through the neighborhood of his father’s girlfriend, was heavily armed — with Skittles and a can of iced tea.
In 911 calls from bystanders, Trayvon can be heard pleading for help just before the sound of gunshots silences him. Zimmerman, however, was not charged with any crime, because Florida is one of 21 states with so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws, entitling people to use deadly force with no duty to retreat when they feel threatened.
“The consequences of the law have been devastating around the state. It’s almost insane what we are having to deal with,” said Talahassee state attorney Willie Meggs, who fought the law when it was proposed, according to a New York Times article.
The flaw of these laws is the presumption that your own life is somehow privileged, or valued higher than that of any other person. “It’s him or me, and it sure ain’ gonna be me!” says what I presume to be Yosemite Sam’s voice in these people’s heads.
There is no basic human right to be last man standing. When confronted with a dangerous situation in which you lack full knowledge of a person’s intentions, you are not automatically afforded the freedom to take drastic action to protect yourself “just in case.”
If every random paranoiac with a gun feels he has the right to use it to kill another person based entirely on his own limited perspective of events, which could well interpret tightening one’s belt as reaching for a weapon, we’re left with total chaos.
Meggs explains, “It puts us in a posture that, if you and I had words, and I said, ‘Get your gun and I will meet you on the street,’ we can have a shootout in the street and the winner is standing his ground.”
It is abundantly clear that there is nothing defensive about carrying a gun and pursuing a person simply because you perceive being black at night as “behaving suspiciously,” but Stand Your Ground laws blur the line between murder and self-defense and place the absolute power of judge and executioner in the hands of everyone at the same time.