Trayvon Martin: Why Was Zimmerman Licensed To Bear Arms?
How does an individual with a record of assaulting a police officer get a license for a firearm? Should neighborhood watch participants be allowed to carry firearms? Does the Stand Your Ground Law really make sense?
[The View From Washington]
Many people are surprised that George Zimmerman was actually charged and not released based upon his claim of self-defense under the "Stand Your Ground Law."
Others are surprised that he was charged with second degree murder and not the lesser charge of homicide/negligent manslaughter.
It is important to remember that according to special prosecutor Angela Corey, during the initial investigation the Sanford Police Department requested an arrest warrant from the Seminole County State Attorney's Office on the grounds of "homicide/negligent manslaughter" and the State Attorney's Office failed to issue the warrant.
Ms. Corey's subsequent investigation has either uncovered additional evidence or has been able to reconstruct the circumstances in order to support the more serious charge second degree murder. This means Ms. Corey believes that she can prove in court that the death of Trayvon Martin was not premeditated (first-degree) by George Zimmerman but Zimmerman's actions were so dangerous that they demonstrated a depraved mind showing no regard for human life (second degree).
Politically, it would have been much easier to pass this case off to the grand jury, as Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger had scheduled, and allow an anonymous group of Floridians to make the decision as to whether or not justice for Trayvon would be determined in a court of law. When Wolfinger failed to issue the warrant for Zimmerman's arrest Gov. Rick Scott eventually did the right thing.
As America mourns the senseless murder of Trayvon Martin we must pause and reflect upon some of the issues that his murder highlights. How does an individual with a record of assaulting a police officer get a license for a firearm? Should neighborhood watch participants be allowed to carry firearms? Does the Stand Your Ground Law really make sense? What impact does a police department's discretion in charging an individual have on the disproportionate rate of African Americans that are incarcerated?
In this so-called "post racial" era of Obama, the major issue that comes to mind is the number of unarmed African American men who have recently been killed. Last August James Craig Anderson was beaten to death by a group of white teenagers in Jackson, MS, on February 9 an unarmed Lamont Harmon was shot and killed by Sacramento, CA sheriff deputies, March 24 an unarmed Kendrec McDade was shot and killed by Pasadena, CA police, and three African Americans were killed and two injured last week as two White men went on a shooting spree in Tulsa,OK.
The formal investigation of the Trayvon Martin case took a long time; many will say way too much time. But we must continue to work from the historical understanding that all too often justice for African Americans is a long time coming.
This is the first stage of a very long process. The process is working. We must continue to be vigilant, engage, and remember that positive direct action works. As Dr. King said years ago, "Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."
Political Scientist Wilmer J. Leon, lll, Ph.D. is the Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program Inside The Issues with Wilmer Leon" and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington.
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