The tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin have been understandably polarized around issues of racism, racial profiling and inequities inherent in the American criminal justice system. Yet one issue that should concern all Americans of every color, creed and religion are the unbridled gun laws and powerful gun lobby which have aided in the creation of an increasingly violent society.
At the heart of the Martin case is Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which offers immunity to anyone who uses deadly force if they demonstrate a reasonable fear their life was under threat and in danger of imminent harm. More than 20 similar laws have been passed by state legislatures across the country in the past few years. According to the New York Times, these laws have been almost unanimously crafted courtesy of the NRA, which works closely with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing advocacy group.
It is likely that George Zimmerman will not receive immunity, considering Trayvon Martin had a right to be where he was, and, as the affidavit states, Zimmerman “profiled,” followed and “confronted” the teenager — making a Stand Your Ground defense counter-intuitive.
But the very nature of these laws has drawn scrutiny from citizens and public policy makers alike, sparking a national debate about ever-expanding gun rights, and ever-shrinking protections for victims of gun violence.
In a 2007 report by the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys who opposed Stand Your Ground legislation, prosecutors warned of the very dangers manifested in the Trayvon Martin tragedy. “Although the spirit of the law may be to allow the public to feel safer, the expansions may instead create a sense of fear from others, particularly strangers.”
The report concluded enactment would have a “disproportionately negative effect on minorities, persons from lower socio-economic status, and young adults/juveniles” who are too often unfairly stereotyped as suspects.
It turns out they were right.
Read more at thegrio.com