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I was involved in a long thread on Facebook in which a longtime acquaintance of mine who has spent a career in law enforcement was avidly defending George Zimmerman, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why.

Ultimately, I came up with two reasons: 1. He's a racist. Or 2. He's such a crazy gun advocate that he automatically gives the benefit of the doubt to someone carrying a gun -- Zimmerman was given credibility simply because he was carrying a gun.

It's kind of crazy to come to that -- but the way Florida law is written, my acquaintance just didn't see that Zimmerman had committed a crime, and therefore the ire against him was somehow misplaced and Zimmerman was being stigmatized and victimized.

So I asked myself: why don't I give Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt? I've done a bunch of thinking about this, and here's where I come up: I trust Trayvon more than I trust Zimmerman. Why? Because he was a kid on the phone holding some Skittles.

And Zimmerman was an armed adult who has been charged for violence against a police officer and domestic abuse, disobeying the police and looking for an interaction he never should have had.

And while that jury may very well have chosen the correct verdict given Florida law,  I think the law here is wrong.

So I did a bunch of thinking about what is wrong with the laws and how they should be changed.

Follow me below to see the laws that should be enacted to prevent situations like this from ever happening again.

1. Gun background checks should include priors for violent offenses against police officers. You assault a cop, you've forfeited your right to own and carry a gun. That's it. If you have a gun license, you lose it. You can't get another one.

2. Gun background checks should include priors for domestic abuse. You are guilty of domestic abuse, you've forfeited your right to own or carry a gun -- domestic violence can too quickly escalate, and having a gun nearby is a terrible idea.

3. Initiating a physical altercation while in possession of a loaded firearm should be considered assault with a deadly weapon. The fact that you are starting that fight knowing you have a loaded gun in your possession makes it much more likely that it will come out and someone (the aggressor, the aggressee, an innocent bystander) is going to be shot.

4. If you do initiate a physical altercation while in possession of a loaded firearm, you may not use self-defense as a defense for subsequently shooting the person you attacked. You started that fight not knowing if you'd win or lose; deciding at some point that you are losing is not an excuse for pulling out that gun and using it.

5. Make it illegal for civilian organizations like neighborhood watches to carry guns. They are simply not trained like police officers in proper use -- including when and how not to use them -- and are too likely to engage in vigilante justice.

Numbers 1 and 2 might not have applied in this case; Zimmerman plead out from his resisting with violence, battery on an officer, and domestic violence charges. Which is too bad, because the best result of all would have been for Zimmerman to not have a gun with him at all (or obey police orders and stay in his car).

But numbers 3 to 5 would have applied to Zimmerman. And though we still would tragically have lost a young boy's life, perhaps some measure of justice would have carried the day.

I'd love to see this set of laws -- billed as Trayvon's laws -- enacted, in Florida and elsewhere.

The best part is that the first two are hard ones to oppose. Who wants to argue that copkillers and wifebeaters need guns? Even for NRA whackos that's a tough argument to make. And the others make sense as well, and while I know there would be opposition, there may also be a sentiment right now that we can take advantage of.

Let's see Trayvon's Laws enacted.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I like your list (7+ / 0-)

    And it seems like some pretty common sense approaches.   Calling them Trayvon's laws seems pretty appropriate too

    Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion. An activist seeks to change opinion.

    by Mindful Nature on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 09:28:31 AM PDT

  •  Excellent ideas. (4+ / 0-)

    Maybe, to keep the NRA out of it, apply your rules only to pistols.  No sawed off shotguns or other altered weapons allowed either.

    Time is a long river.

    by phonegery on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 09:35:29 AM PDT

  •  Great suggestions (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice, Oaklander, 88kathy

    Thanks for sharing these great suggestions for solutions to the problems exposed by this case.
    Of course the NRA will oppose #1 and #2--they won't even go along with keeping guns away from terrorists! But I keep hoping that the country's gun madness will remit before much longer.

  •  Penalizing an individual for arrests and complaint (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, johnny wurster, alice kleeman

    without convictions (the Zimmerman situation) is probably unconstitutional.
        How about making it a felony to shoot an unarmed person in any circumstance, except to repel persons who actually are breaking into your home?
       

  •  "Avidly defending" (5+ / 0-)

    I'm good at seeing things from different angles but even on the most favorable and charitable interpretation of what happened I could not be "avid" about defending GZ.

    You might get a pleasant surprise about who would support your proposals. There's more than one person out there, in social groups with which liberals seldom mix, who's said things like "If I hadn't been carrying I would have popped him one". Some types you would consider alarmingly macho teach with grim seriousness that walking around with the capacity for lethal force requires backing down from confrontations.

    They might shrink from writing it into law, though.

    Freedom isn't free. Patriots pay taxes.

    by Dogs are fuzzy on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 09:58:50 AM PDT

  •  there was no evidence Zimmerman "initiated" (0+ / 0-)

    violence, so he still would've been acquitted.

    re neighborhood watch: Zimmerman wasn't part of a formal neighborhood watch, so it wouldn't apply.

    •  2 people know, 1 is dead, and the other is a (0+ / 0-)

      liar.

      give the NRA the Royal Flush join Stop The NRA

      by 88kathy on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 10:38:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  About Neighborhood Watch (0+ / 0-)

      Apparently, he was part of a Neighborhood Watch. The Sanford Police Department released a lot of documents--several binders' worth--of communications between the PD and the Neighborhood Watch. Some of them listed George Zimmerman by name.

      He wasn't supposed to be carrying a firearm while doing Neighborhood Watch, and he wasn't supposed to be patrolling, and he wasn't supposed to be confronting. Just observe, and call it in.

      What I don't know is how the Neighborhood Watch group, or the police department it works with, or the community association, is supposed to ensure that NW volunteers don't go over the line here.

      George Zimmerman considered himself Neighborhood Watch more or less 24/7, it appears, including the times he was going around armed with his permitted firearm.

      Then, when things got completely out of control, he immediately resorted to the NW identification because it made his actions seem more legitimate.

      Maybe the Neighborhood Watches should all adopt a simple uniform. You're not representing NW if you're not wearing it. If you are wearing it, then you must not be carrying a firearm or confronting "suspects"--just observe, call it in.

      Indeed, if Trayvon had seen a NW uniform, he might not have been frightened by this strange man coming after him.

    •  We know what his girlfriend heard (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alice kleeman

      And we know what he said to the 911 operator.

      To the 911 operator he said something like "Oh, shit, he's running."

      And the last thing Trayvon's girlfriend heard was Trayvon saying "get off, get off."

      If you don't think that indicates that Zimmerman initiated the contact, I don't get it. And I don't mean to say "I can say beyond a reasonable doubt, I know Zimmerman initiated the contact."

      But I do think the laws should be written this way -- it's the right thing to do.

      And you are wrong: Zimmerman was the neighborhood watch coordinator. The neighborhood watch may not have been part of a national organization of neighborhood watches, but they were working with the Sanford Police Department.

      http://www.nytimes.com/...

      Barbara Lee speaks for me.

      by Oaklander on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 04:55:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Domestic violence (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NM Ray

    Doesn't the background check already include checks for domestic violence? Any conviction--not just felonies--means no purchasing of a gun from an official registered gun dealer.

    There are no rules for purchases from anybody else, of course.

    •  Domestic Violence (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oaklander, True North

      Domestic Violence Convictions already affect your federal right to keep firearms.  18 USC 922 prohibits the sale or transfer of any firearm to any person who has been convicted by any court of any misdemeanor crime of domestic violence

      My wife, daughter and granddaughters should have more privacy in their doctor's office than I have buying another rifle or shotgun.

      by NM Ray on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 03:36:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I like these. I think a more succinct way of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oaklander, alice kleeman

    describing #4 is this: If you assault someone while in possession of a firearm, you lose the right to take advantage of the "doctrine of escalation" when they fight back.  

    The idea is basically that you've already escalated the fight as far as it can go by initiating a physical altercation while carrying a gun.  They can respond with whatever force they want because you've already responded with potentially deadly force.

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