×

A lot of ‘what-ifs’ haunt Martin case

Trayvon Martin is dead. George Zimmerman is not guilty. Except for the people involved in the case, the rest of us should move on.

Before we do, there is a cautionary lesson to be learned about guns, the people who carry them and the rest of society.

It’s easy to see how this tragedy might have been the non-event it should have been. Martin wasn’t doing anything wrong that night, and neither was Zimmerman.

But the gun changed everything.

What if Zimmerman had followed instructions not to carry a gun while acting as a community watch volunteer?

What if he had simply placed the call to police and stayed, as he was told to do by police, in his car?

Why was he determined and emboldened to follow the teenager into the dark?

His defense team during the trial pointed out that he was short, pudgy and out of shape. Why would a man like that follow a tall, athletic teenager into dim light?

A normal person might have been frightened and felt cautious, perhaps have waited behind.

Not Zimmerman, who felt bold; bold because he secretly carried a handgun on his hip.

What if Florida didn’t have its “stand-your-ground” law, basically an open invitation to gun confrontations? Might Zimmerman have walked back to his car?

Having a gun changed the risk equation for him, giving him the confidence to do what police clearly told him not to do, to do what a less confident person without a gun might have avoided doing.

Martin likely made a similar mistake, feeling he could confidently confront a shorter, older man, not knowing or thinking that man was hiding a gun.

If Martin had seen a gun, or if the person before him was a police officer carrying a Taser and a gun, it is safe to say he would not have been as cocky about confronting Zimmerman or attacking him.

He likely would have kept on walking or even started running.

But the secret, invisible gun changed the risk equation for both men. Zimmerman was bold when he should not have been. Martin was confrontational when, if he could have seen the gun, he would not have been.

Two mistakes. One man is dead and the other will resume a life effectually ruined by the incident.

All of which must give the thousands of people buying concealed carry permits pause.

Police officers get hundreds of hours of training on firearms, on handling confrontations and when it is legal and justifiable to shoot another person. Then their training is regularly refreshed, even by no-shoot exercises.

They carry their weapon openly, wear a uniform and identify themselves in any confrontation.

The guy concealing a gun under his jacket takes a two-day course that is far from comprehensive, brief training he is never required to refresh or review.

Police know they will face an investigation anytime they use their weapon.

The Zimmerman trial shows that regular people using a gun face the same, if not tougher, scrutiny.

Pull that trigger at the wrong time or in the wrong place and you are likely to face criminal charges, years behind bars and even civil proceedings that can drag on for years and leave a person in debt.

Carrying a loaded gun is a frightening responsibility.

If you go out at night and have a few drinks, you shouldn’t be operating a car. Are you in any condition to make the snap judgments involved in shooting another person?

Did you provoke your assailant because you were hiding a gun under you jacket? Did you put yourself in a dangerous situation just because you had a gun? Were you boiling with anger when you pulled that trigger? Where you wearing your glasses? Did you try to retreat to avoid the confrontation? That’s the law in Maine.

If you shoot another person, a judge and jury may one day weigh all those factors.

The lesson for non-gun toters among us is simple – never argue with a stranger about anything.

That’s the new reality as more and more people carry guns. Is the person armed?

Because, in reality, they hand these permits out to practically anyone who isn’t a convicted felon or has been involuntarily committed.

Low IQ? Drug problem? Rageaholic? Racist? Town drunk?

No problem. It doesn’t matter; you get a gun permit.

The tragedy in Sanford is behind us, but the lesson is clear – in real life, there are no winners or happy endings, even in a legally justified shooting.

– The Lewiston (Maine)
Sun Journal

July 17