All three problems are entwined with the tragic death of Trayvon Martin recently in Sanford, Fla. Martin, 17, was shot to death for the crime of being black in a sacred white, gated community.
He was unarmed and no threat to anyone. But in the perfervid mind of the slayer, Martin was a “fucking coon,” a “hoodie,” wearing a “sinister” hooded sweatshirt.
The killer, George Zimmerman, was a self-appointed community vigilante, a trigger-happy watchman, a Rambo.
A hate-filled obsessive who called 911 more than 40 times to rant about the “presence of frightening strangers.” An angry man of 28 who had two run-ins with the police because he couldn’t control his rage.
He was an armed aggressor who followed Martin even when police told him by cell phone to stop.
Zimmerman asked Martin the racist question, “What are you doing around here?” That’s a variation of “driving while black” or “walking while black.”
Zimmerman’s father, in what sounds like a made-up, cover-up story, said Martin started a fight by punching his son. But Martin’s version is silenced forever unless there is a Justice Department probe.
The younger Zimmerman claimed self-defense in the killing. Such a defense is absurd.
But Stand Your Ground laws in Florida and similar statutes in some 20 other states give legal sanction to self-defense in “settling” domestic quarrels, road rage, bar fights and drug violence.
“These laws encourage hotheads to go into confrontations with loaded firearms,” black columnist Eugene Robinson pointed out. “They give permission to shoot first and ask questions later.
“For every black man in America, from the millionaire in the corner office to the mechanic in the local garage, the Trayvon Martin tragedy is personal. It could have been me or one of my sons. It could have been any of us blacks.”
Jesse Jackson, speaking to demonstrators in Sanford last weekend, cited the racism of the slaying: “This is not about a hoodie. It’s about racial profiling.”
Nevertheless, Zimmerman was not arrested as he should have been. He will not be tried as he should be. He is free to kill again.
Stand Your Ground statutes are a license to kill. They should be “abolished from the land,” as the New York Times rightly cried out.
But they won’t be. Cretins in state legislatures and the NRA will not permit it.
The NRA practically owns lawmakers at state and congressional levels. Legislators pander to the gun lobby because they are terrified of opposing the K Street powerhouse.
But while the NRA has a high profile, its companion in dark deeds is the low profile American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a corporate-backed, conservative group funded by the likes of the Koch brothers and Exxon Mobil.
ALEC bills are drafted into state statutes: union-busting, anti-environmental laws and tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.
One of its goals is privatization. As columnist Paul Krugman writes: “turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations.”
ALEC makes it difficult for poor and ethnic minorities to vote. It dictates how climate-change science gets taught in some schools. It pushes draconian immigration statutes. It funds attacks on worker rights.
So it is hardly surprising that ALEC and the NRA are staunch allies.
Krugman again: ALEC espouses vigilante “injustice.” It exploits “long-standing public fears, especially those associated with racial tension.”
Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence notes: “Florida is the NRA utopia. It makes it as easy as possible to carry a loaded gun in public.”
In this violence-besmirched country 40 states allow concealed-carry permits.
The NRA is pushing state legislators to allow concealed weapons in such ridiculous places as churches, day-care centers and school buses.
It is urging the Arizona Legislature to pass a bill to make it legal to carry guns on college and university campuses.
And why not? As columnist Gail Collins of the New York Times says: “Arizona has already passed every other law anti-gun foes oppose.”
The District of Columbia, plagued by shooting deaths, outlawed all handguns. But a right-wing Supreme Court struck down the ban in 2008 under the spurious guise of the Second Amendment.
About 35,000 Americans are killed and 65,000 wounded every year by gunfire. But standards of human and moral decency are inapplicable in America.
England makes handguns illegal. A civilized America would do the same.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be contacted at email@example.com.