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article imageOp-Ed: The devil's right hand — America's insane gun culture

By Alexander Baron     Jul 25, 2013 in Politics
The recent acquittal of George Zimmerman for the slaying of unarmed Trayvon Martin was played out as a race issue. The real issue is something entirely different.
That issue is America's insane gun culture. The Zimmerman case and the horrific mass shooting at a school in Connecticut are the two best current examples of what is wrong with this gun fetish.
The Zimmerman case raised three issues: race, stand your ground, and self-defense. The race issue and so-called profiling was shown to be completely contrived and bogus, but that won't stop those with vested interests (or delusions of white privilege) raising it again and again.
The other two issues are real; though stand your ground was cited initially, eventually Zimmerman relied on self-defense, and although he elected not to testify, his defense counsel managed to hoodwink a jury of six women - five of them mothers - into believing his client had acted reasonably.
The stand your ground law is something that evolved from the so-called castle doctrine, which allows a householder to use lethal force against an unlawful intruder. The text of the Texas statute can be found here.
It will be seen this law covers not only the home but place of work, and vehicles. However, some would argue this is redundant law, because every criminal justice system worthy of the name permits a householder or indeed anyone to use lethal force at any time provided it is reasonable under all the circumstances. This applies not simply to stand your ground but to self-defense.
Let us stay with the Zimmerman case for a moment. We have only one version of what happened that night: Zimmerman was attacked, and shot Martin in self-defense, killing him. Was lethal force really reasonable? Zimmerman did suffer serious injury, a broken nose and lacerations to his head, but should this have been enough to warrant his shooting his (alleged) assailant, and shooting him dead?
If you believe it is, then this begs the question, what if two men come to blows in a bar or on the street, and one man is getting the better of the other, should the weaker party be permitted to take out a gun and shoot him dead?
When Charles Saatchi was seen grabbing his wife by the throat outside a London restaurant, transferring this scenario to the Deep South, could Nigella Lawson have lawfully reached into her handbag, pulled out a gun and shot him dead? What about the proven violent assault by a certain Chris Brown awhile back; could his victim have used lethal force?
Scandalous though the Zimmerman case may be, there is one that is far, far worse, that of Joe Horn. This was represented as a stand your ground case, but it was little more than cold-blooded murder.
Horn was not defending his own property but that of his neighbour. Although the usual suspects tried to turn this into a race case (as usual), it is clear that Horn believed he had both the right and the duty to shoot (murder) someone he suspected - albeit on credible evidence - of burglarising an unoccupied home. A Grand Jury in Harris County - the execution capital of America - refused to indict him. As stated, this was far, far worse than the Martin-Zimmerman case, but two villains caught in the act, and illegal immigrants at that, don't have the same marketability as a high school kid.
Do we really want to see this kind of Wild West justice, even in Texas?
The Sandy Hook massacre is another aspect of America's insane gun culture. Whatever his motivations the night he killed Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman was a rational human being; the same cannot be said for Adam Lanza or for most of the other perpetrators of such indiscriminate acts of mass murder, so different problem, different solution. Clearly the more or less free availability of high power, automatic firearms is not desirable in any society, and it is absurd to suggest that attempts to curtail that availability are part and parcel of some grand conspiracy.
Weapons of mass destruction are surprisingly easy to manufacture, and when a perpetrator is not only intent on killing as many people as possible but has no concern for his own well being, there is no stopping him. Without wishing to put ideas into sick minds, more people can be killed with an untimely lit match than with an automatic rifle. That should not be taken as a suggestion that we should ban matches anymore than we should allow all and sundry to carry high powered weapons, concealed or otherwise.
Of course, the NRA will scream to high heaven at any suggestion that their right to bear arms should be curtailed, and what was that saying? “I’ll give you my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands”. No Bubba, when they come for your guns, you'll give them up without a shot being fired. In 1775 you went to war over a tax on tea, but in those days, Americans were made of sterner stuff. Over the course of the 20th Century you saw the instigation of the Federal Reserve, Prohibition, repressive taxation, and a series of foreign wars none of which was in the true interests of your country, so who are you trying to kid?
Oh yeah, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, but much of the time, it's the so-called good guys who are doing the shooting, or have you already forgotten Ruby Ridge and Waco? And let's not mention countless routine traffic stops and arrests in which police have shot and injured or even killed unarmed people, and on occasion police have been shot and injured or even killed themselves - Daniel Faulkner springs to mind.
The difference between a traffic stop in the US and the UK is stark. Here, most police are still unarmed, certainly outside the capital, although there is seldom any problem with facilitating the deployment of armed police to any incident. Generally speaking traffic stops in the UK are routine; in the US, they are no such thing, but if you have an armed citizenry, you can't have an unarmed police force.
So what should be done about America's gun laws? If the Zimmerman-Martin incident has taught us anything (besides the willingness of opportunists to play the race card) it is that its stand your ground and self-defense laws need reform. Just because you are entitled to stand your ground, doesn't mean you have to. There needs too to be a re-examination of the law concerning self-defense when one party is carrying a concealed weapon, and perhaps some consideration to self-styled naborhood watch captains who go about armed. Clearly policing is something that should be left to the police, whether or not guns are involved.
The death of Trayvon Martin may have been tragic but there have been other, similar deaths that are even more tragic or just plain ludicrous. Earlier this year a girl of 9 was shot and killed in an accident that should never have happened. Previously, a girl of 15 was shot and killed by her own brother in similar circumstances. From the tragic to the sublime, in Philadelphia last year, a man was shot dead in an incident relating to a dispute over a dog doing something unmentionable.
Here is a video of another ludicrous gun incident which but for the intervention of a concerned father could have ended in tragedy. How stupid can anyone get, pulling a gun on another passenger over a loud phone call?
The latest fatal incident happened at a Texas gas station. Both the male victim and the female killer were black, but don't be surprised if the usual suspects try to make a race issue out of it. If the woman walks free then it will be racist; if she is convicted of either manslaughter or some degree of murder it could be sexist, heck, it might even be both, when what it was really was a stupid waste of a man's life over nothing. In the UK, this woman would have appeared in court charge with murder already, even if she were one of that tiny number of people who could own such a weapon legally.
This stand your ground mentality is unique to the United States; even in countries where ordinary citizens are routinely armed, seldom do we see anything like it. America needs a debate about guns, but an honest debate, one that is not tainted by this irrelevant, misleading and divisive nonsense about racism. It needs this debate, and it needs it now.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, joe horn, Murder, Gun culture
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