Monday, April 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.

Comments
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18