March 21, 2012
"He must be punished as an example and warning to other gun nuts." — commenter on WashingtonPost.com (www.washingtonpost.com/politics/shooting-of-florida-youth-prompts-calls-for-federal-investigation/2012/03/19/gIQA1HZ6NS_story.html?hpid=z2)
I predicted Monday that the Trayvon Martin case would eventually become less about race and more about guns, and "eventually" turns out to have been about 24 hours.
Even now the facts are a bit murky, but the condensed version is that 17-year-old Martin was shot in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., by 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Some early reports said Zimmerman was bloodied in a struggle with the teenager before firing, but later accounts have tended to leave that information out.
Despite the name, Zimmerman is identified as Hispanic, which may be why the race issue seems to be receding in favor of agitation against Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which relieves the armed citizen of the responsibility to retreat in the face of criminal action.
This case is catnip for gun-haters, who have been on a pretty continuous long march of defeat since 1994, both in the legislative and judicial arenas. It's the sort of incident that fires up their base and lets them haul out every stereotype they've used since the 1960s. Gun owners are lot more diverse group today than they were 50 years ago, but the old reliable bugbear of the homicidal redneck from "Mississippi Burning" will be paraded once more.
The best thing we all can do to combat that? Don't be that guy.