Saturday, June 23, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Looking for blame in the Trayvon Martin's death? Don't forget the Florida Legislature

Outrage abounds. A 17-year-old young man on a fatal Skittles run to a nearby convenience store is gunned down by the neighborhood Barney Fife from hell who claims, because of a supremely stupid state law, that he was defending himself.

Al Sharpton is not far behind. This is not good. And it is only going to get worse.

Go ahead. Be as outraged as you want over the killing of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman, a Sanford subdivision busybody with Charles Bronson issues. But save just a bit of your anger. You're probably going to need it as long as the Florida Legislature continues to meet and as long as that gathering of beagles in the House and Senate and governor's mansion continue to serve as the fawning factotums of the National Rifle Association.

For there are countless George Zimmermans across the state and Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County. It's entirely possible you live next door to your own George Zimmerman 2.0, the puffed-up little man who patrols the neighborhood with his gun and a clipboard on the hunt for evil-doing, with less law enforcement experience in dealing with true bad guys than Dagwood Bumstead.

And as more homes fall into foreclosure, especially in once swanky subdivisions, with more transient renters moving in, what do you suppose the chances are we will see more incidents of self-anointed, paranoid vigilantes prowling the streets in search of an undesirable behind every shrubbery?

Before Trayvon Martin, armed with his Skittles, an iced tea and his cellphone, was regarded by Zimmerman as a threat to life and limb, most of these neighborhood Sasquatch types could be regarded as little more than harmless faux security guards channeling their inner Inspector Clouseau.

That was then. This is now.

Thanks to the Florida Legislature, a wholly owned personal foot massager for the NRA's Marion Hammer, the Madame Defarge of the Smith & Wesson set, two knuckleheaded laws got passed.

First Tallahassee made it easier for yahoos like George Zimmerman to carry a concealed weapon. As of late last year, Florida had issued nearly 900,000 concealed weapons permits, which are easier to obtain than Fourth of July fireworks. Or put another way, six out of every 100 adult Floridians are secretly packing, which included, of course, the Sherlock Holmes of Sanford. Feeling all warm and secure, are you?

So not only did the Florida Legislature, the lap dogs of Marion Hammer, make it easier for every rube in the state to walk around with a concealed weapon under their pelts, then they made it more convenient to be able to shoot people. Killing field kismet?

Seven years ago the Legislature passed its "stand your ground" law, that says no person has an obligation to retreat from a threat (which would seem to be a pretty good idea) even if that is the only safe option.

In both cases, police agency officials, prosecutors and judges, begged the Legislature not to pass the concealed carry and "stand your ground" bills arguing the measures would make their jobs more difficult and lead to needless violence.

They were right. And they were ignored by a cowering Legislature more afraid of incurring the wrath of Marion Hammer, than concerned with protecting the public.

George Zimmerman may be the one who shot Trayvon Martin, but it was the cowards of Tallahassee who loaded the gun.

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