(Because It’s About My Child, Too)
I keep asking myself- have we opened Pandora’s Box so wide that what George Zimmerman did is ACTUALLY legal and reasonable and entirely free from punishment? Early on, I thought it might be. Before I saw a deceased Jordan Davis and consoled his tearful parents, before Newtown, before spending months really looking at this country, I thought George Zimmerman was just “looking out for his own neighborhood” and might have had to shoot to protect his own life. And then I looked at life around me. And then I looked at all of the unreasonable and avoidable actions and inactions that caused him to take Trayvon’s life.
I start with a little about me and my family and what I learned about fear and prejudice in America. We were burglarized last August. Seeing my crying wife hold my crying child while police invaded our invaded house, made me wonder- do we all need to arm up to prevent the bad from taking over. With this thought and $50, I wound up with about 100 others in a Concealed Weapon Permit class, driven there by fear. This only made my fear worse. That was the its design- profit off of fear. Fear sells guns and breeds contempt and power.
The class was put on by a gun store with a cheesy name and the two men who ran the class were like circus barkers:
For just $162 and 4 hours, you, too, can be master of the universe. We even sell a book written by the top gun lawyer in the country, which you must buy. It tells you how to ‘get away’ with self defense. Live in the grey area of the gun laws. It tells you more than just, ‘don’t shoot them in the back,’ but what Stand Your Ground really means and how it protects your rights as an American citizen.
The two gun store employees proceeded to tell us more about boycotting certain specific businesses who did not allow guns on the premises than the laws we needed to know. Over the four hour presentation, they each pulled out six or seven guns from their various hiding spots, taking a few moments to give the sales pitch on each. I was so entranced, I actually bought one of the guns they pitched- the Bodyguard. They did well that day. They sold- America.
And, as I went alone, I remember just listening to the conversations around me. It was a few weeks before the 2012 Presidential election and most were there in fear of the re-election of “the black President.” Others had bought the NRA’s propaganda that the FBI was coming door-to-door to take guns or that permits would be more tightly regulated. Some spoke against the “thug” in Sanford who had been shot and speculated on who he was “staking out.” The rise in crime, the fear of minority power and other conspiracy theories drove quite a few people there to join the 1 million Concealed Weapon Permit holders in the State of Florida. Some had been victims. Some just wanted to feel less fear. All craved the lustful taste of power over fear a gun was promised to provide.
I left, hanging my head in shame. Who had I become? Had I let fear overcome me? Having grown up in the great State of Alabama, I knew racists. But they were only racists when they were around those they trusted. Now, racism is openly justified by crime reports, broken politics and black teenagers in the wrong place at the wrong time. Holy shit.
And then, weeks later, the God above put me on the couch of Ron Davis. His son, Jordan Davis was just shot and killed by a man with a gun in his glove box. Michael Dunn’s infamous last words were, “you aren’t going to talk to me like that.” People say it was about loud music, but it was about where we are as a society. It was about hate and intolerance, not race as I said in one of the first national interviews I did on the matter. I sat there with tears pouring down my and my associate’s faces- a broken man. Ron and Lucia had media trucks following them trying to scoop one another. All three local stations knocked on the door while I was there. Days earlier, he was a happy father hearing his son lead the Thanksgiving prayer for the first time, and now he was a broken man because of another broken man- Michael Dunn and his legal gun and the empowerment and control it brought him. He claims self defense and Stand Your Ground, as well.
We will deal with that matter in due course, but it changed me. It changed the way I view life and tolerance, love and passion. I grew very angry with lawyers, victims advocates and others who were using these victims or were in it for the profit. I grew impatient with the close minded. I walked as close as I could in the shoes of someone who had lost a child to gun violence. I wound up wanting to find solutions more and more. I felt (and feel) I can stop a few bullets. Trayvon can stop more. Jordan can stop more. The butterfly effect of all of our efforts can stop even more. Or maybe heal some hearts. Or something. We have to, because the next bullet could be flying towards any of us. And instead of Michael Dunn’s death sentence of “you aren’t going to talk to me like that,” George Zimmerman’s was basically, “you aren’t going to walk in my neighborhood like that.” What sentence will do you in.
My dad always said, “don’t start no shit, and there won’t be none (sic).” Let’s look at that-
So, why do we need George Zimmerman to be convicted and why, as a lawyer, do I feel he should be convicted?
On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman did one right thing- he called police. That was the LAST thing he did correct, reasonably and with any intelligence. If he stopped there, Trayvon Martin would be alive and George Zimmerman would be free of the justice system. But he compounded neglect of omission and commission thereafter- manslaughter. Read more
For legal purposes, are zombies dead or alive? (ABA Journal)