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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Florida gun laws need reform

    The death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old from Florida, is a tragedy that has gained national attention. Numerous public figures, including President Barack Obama, have condemned racial discrimination and demanded that Martin’s attacker, George Zimmerman, be brought to justice.

    Martin, a black teenager wearing a hoodie, was walking from a 7-Eleven to a house in a gated community on Feb. 26 when neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman called 911 to report a “suspicious” figure. The police told him not to follow him, but a few minutes later, several 911 calls reported that the two men were wrestling on the ground. In the 911 calls, a boy can be heard screaming for help, and a gunshot was fired. Zimmerman claimed to act on self-defense, but Martin was unarmed. The case has since caused a controversial discourse over racial profiling and gun laws, especially because Zimmerman has yet to be charged with a crime.

    Spike Lee, The Roots drummer Questlove, Wyclef Jean, Janelle Monae and others have all tweeted extensively about the case. Some have endorsed a petition on Change.org, which has reached 1.4 million signatures, and participated in the Million Hoodie March, a protest that used the hoodie Martin was wearing in his last moments as a symbol, calling for Zimmerman’s arrest. Some question whether celebrity involvement helps or hurts the case. However, these celebrities are so fixated on the race factor that they haven’t realized the other, equally important issue.

    The Stand Your Ground laws, which have helped Zimmerman defend his actions, need to be either repealed or altered. Martin is not the only one who has suffered from these laws, and while the question of racism is certainly relevant, his death would be tragic even if he wasn’t black. If Zimmerman is indeed guilty of shooting an unarmed boy without reasonable necessity, he needs to be held accountable even if it’s not a hate crime.

    According to the Los Angeles Times, Florida enacted the Stand Your Ground law, the first law of its kind, in 2005. The law states that someone can “stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if the person fears death or great bodily harm.” At least 20 other states have similar laws, but in light of Trayvon’s case, some public figures have begun to question it.

    “I really think, at some point, we’re all going to realize that what we have, what we’re dealing with, and what our police chief is dealing with, is a bad law,” said Sanford city commissioner Patty Mahany.

    Arthur Hayhoe, director of the Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said that since the law is vague enough to allow anyone to claim self-defense, it is the problem, as opposed to racism, in Martin’s case.

    “It’s just expanding the use of self-defense to justify shooting Uncle Joe in the backyard because you don’t like his barbecue,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

    George Zimmerman had a permit to use the gun, and because no witnesses had a clear view of the actual shot being fired, the Stand Your Ground law is on his side because no one can contradict his story. However, if Martin was harmlessly walking down the street, then there was no reason for him to invoke the law. Just because a person has the right to use a gun doesn’t mean they also have the right to act as a vigilante.

    — Lauren Shores is a journalism sophomore. She can reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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