I was once labeled as a vigilante.
For seven years, beginning in 1987, I regularly carried a gun. Initially it was only for particular events. Later it was daily. Why? The short answer is the work I was engaged in required it.
In the late eighties I volunteered to infiltrate rallies and gatherings of the Ku Klux Klan for a civil rights organization. Later, I was a public spokesperson for another local group engaged in anti-Klan organizing. The first brought me into contact with some unsavory types. The second made me the recipient of numerous death threats. So I was armed.
The local group I was with carried out a wide range of activities, including house sitting to protect people from night riders to patrolling areas under assault by nazi-skinhead gangs. I'm proud to say that in all the years of such activity I manage to avoid ever having to use that gun.
This didn't stop the Klan and others from trying to portray us as some kind of threat. We were tagged as vigilantes despite the fact that all of our activities kept scrupulously within the letter of the law.
This was, in part, because we didn't fool ourselves about the implications of being armed. There's an old saying: "Never draw a gun unless you're prepared to use it. Never shoot a gun unless you're prepared to shoot to kill." It follows from this that if you carry a gun you'd better be prepared to do both. We understood that to carry a gun was to decide that we would use deadly force in defense of our own lives and the lives of others. That we were prepared to kill. Not a decision to be taken lightly or treated casually.
That it never came to this was not because there weren't occasions when it could have happened. There were but because we never considered guns to be anything but a last resort to be used in extremity, we avoided the worst.
This is why I have absolutely no sympathy for George Zimmerman and no patience whatever for his apologists. When George Zimmerman got out of his car with his gun he was already prepared to use deadly force. He was prepared to use it on a specific target; a black teenager in a hoody whom he knew absolutely nothing about. He had no knowledge of any crime having been committed, much less any reason to believe Trayvon had committed a crime. As far as I'm concerned, that's depraved indifference to the life of another. No one who carries a gun can credibly deny their intent to use it. The question is whether or not that intent is justified.
I guess it comes as no surprise when I say that I think the jury's verdict was a gross miscarriage of justice. I don't know what went on in their deliberations. What I do know is that I went for seven years prepared to defend myself against people who I knew posed a deadly threat to me and I never killed anyone. George Zimmerman stalked and killed a complete stranger for no reason that I can see other than his own desire to play cop.
That he walks free while Trayvon Martin lies in his grave is an obscenity.