Millions of Americans go about their daily lives carrying a gun–legally poised to “defend themselves” in one form or another. Not surprising in the land of plenty.
For years, state lawmakers have been bombarded by the lobbying arm the National Rifleman’s Association of America, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action ILA. NRA-ILA focuses on the Second Amendment of the US Constitution’s right to purchase, possess, and use firearms, including the concealed weapons legislation. Just this month, S. 2188, the “National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2012,” legislation passed in the US Senate, giving the right to a person with a valid “state-issued concealed firearm permit to carry a concealed handgun in any other state that issues concealed firearm permits, or that does not prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms for lawful purposes.”
Concealed weapons laws are at the crux of the ongoing investigation of the murder of Trayvon Martin. The hotly debated root causes of the horrific crime includes the foundational construct of structural racism, the proliferation of fear mongered, hate-breed laws, and a broken judicial system that may ensure yet another supreme injustice.
George Zimmerman, the overzealous, self-proclaimed neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Florida, claimed self-defense under the state’s concealed weapons–“stand your ground“–law, a stance which was upheld by police. He has yet to be charged with a crime. Zimmerman stood his ground against an unarmed Trayvon, and admits he followed, confronted, and fatally shot the teenager.
Zimmerman clearly racially profiled Martin.
The national and international outcry of this tragedy has Florida lawmakers scrambling to clarify the law’s intent, which they state does not apply in the death Trayvon Martin due to the perpetrator having followed the child. Florida Republican lawmakers Rep. Dennis Baxley and former Sen. Durell Peaden sponsored the legislation that was passed in 2005. Last week, Baxley went on record stating that the statute does not lend itself to someone pursuing and confronting a person.
Sadly, rather than displaying intelligence or a sense of basic humanity and support via an investigation into the death of Martin, the Right used the occasion of President Obama’s heartfelt plea to spew anti-Obama messaging. Labeling Obama’s, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” comment as race baiting, Newt Gingrich chose to politicize the tragedy.
There is real cause for concern for the concealed weapons laws and licensing procedures in all states. In Florida, there were over 1400 licensing permits granted to people with documented criminal backgrounds, some with weapon related offenses. Nevertheless, the NRA continues to lobby state legislatures, as well as pundits in Washington regarding these destructive and unchecked laws.
Opinions and feelings run the gamut as America seeks to understand the how and why of what really happened in Sanford, Florida, last month. The facts and evidence in the Trayvon Martin tragedy continue to be gathered. In the end, we can be sure of this: it is about race─period.