A license to kill

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

No, I am not referring to James Bond, 007. Any American living in a state that has lax gun laws and stand your ground laws, and which permits its citizens to engage in vigilante justice (like Arizona) has the tacit approval of the state for a license to kill. It is a sickness in our culture.

There are two good opinions on this topic that I have read. The first is Ed Kilgore at the Political Animal Blog, who writes, Licenses to Kill:

[T]he more I think about it, the real aberration in law and society
that’s been exposed by this case involves the incentives offered to
Zimmerman and people like him—not just in Sanford, Florida, but in much
of the country. At TAP, Scott Lemieux nails it:

Carrying a deadly weapon in public should carry unique
responsibilities. In most cases someone with a gun should not be able to
escape culpability if he initiates a conflict with someone unarmed and
the other party ends up getting shot and killed. Under the current law
in many states, people threatened by armed people have few good options,
because fighting back might create a license to kill. As the New Yorker’s
Amy Davidson puts it, “I still don’t understand what Trayvon was
supposed to do.” Unless the law is changed to deal with the large number
of people carrying concealed guns, there will be more tragic and
unnecessary deaths of innocent people like Trayvon Martin for which
nobody is legally culpable. And to make claims of self-defense easier to
bring, as Florida and more than 20 other states have done, is moving in
precisely the wrong direction. And, even more importantly, no matter
how self-defense laws are structured the extremely unusual American
practice of allowing large number of citizens to carry concealed weapons
leads to many unecessary deaths. (All 50 states, it’s worth noting,
permit concealed carry.)

More generally, even as violent crime rates have steadily dropped for
decades now, we’ve become a country where the state has steadily
abandoned its monopoly on use of lethal force—abandoned one of the
principles whereby civilization arose out of the chaos of barbarism—not
only in cases where someone is defending hearth and home, but anywhere.
Whether or not you believe George Zimmerman was a conscious full-time
vigilante who roamed around the streets of his community looking for
trouble, there is zero question our laws and practices encourage
vigilantism to an extraordinary extent. We’ve bought the NRA’s bizarre
argument that privatizing deadly force and then creating a universal
presumption of a license to kill will make us a safer society.

Whatever you think should be George Zimmerman’s fate, just look at
the man and ask yourself why on earth he should have been given a
license to kill and then a ready self-defense in case he exercised it?
Is America really so pathetically weak and endangered that we have to
rely on the George Zimmermans of the world to protect us from the
terrible specter of teenagers wearing hoodies? I would hope the question
answers itself.

Then there is the venerable Charles Pierce at Esquire, who never minces words to tell it like it is. What George Zimmerman Can Do Now:

However, in theory, at least, here is what is now possible. Some night
very soon, if he so chooses, George Zimmerman can load his piece, tuck
it into the back of his pants, climb into his SUV, and drive around
Sanford, Florida looking for assholes and fucking punks who are walking
through neighborhoods where he, George Zimmerman, defender of law and
order, doesn't think they belong.

He can drive around Sanford, Florida
and check out anyone who is dressed in such a manner as might frighten
the average citizen who has been fed a daily diet of "Scary Black Kids"
by their local news and by their favorite radio personalities, and who
is dressed in such a manner as might seem inappropriate to their
surroundings as determined by George Zimmerman, crimebuster.

He can
drive around Sanford, Florida until he spots an asshole or a fucking
punk and then he can get out of his SUV, his piece tucked into the back
of his pants, and he can stalk the asshole or the fucking punk, the one
who is in the wrong neighborhood, or who is dressed inappropriately, at
least according to George Zimmerman, protector of peace.

If the asshole,
or the fucking punk, turns around and objects to being stalked — or,
worse, if the asshole, or the fucking punk, decides physically to
confront the person stalking him — then George Zimmerman can whip out
the piece from the back of his pants and shoot the asshole, or the
fucking punk, dead right there on the spot.

This can happen tonight.
That is now possible. Hunting licenses are now available and it's open
season on assholes, fucking punks, and kids who wear hoodies at night in
neighborhoods where they do not belong, at least according to George
Zimmerman, defender of law and order, crimebuster, and protector of the
peace, because that is what American society has told George Zimmerman,
and all the rest of us, is the just outcome of what happened on one dark
and rainy night in February of 2012.

* * *

It was hard at that moment, when the jury gave George Zimmerman back his
gun, to remember that this trial wasn't supposed to happen at all . . . There wasn't supposed to be a trial at all. In theory, George
Zimmerman could have been back, standing his post, watching for assholes
and fucking punks, the very next night, according to the original
assessment made by local law enforcement.

Instead, people who filled
George Zimmerman's fevered definition of assholes and fucking punks
roamed free, wearing their hoodies at will. The gated communities of
Sanford have had to do without his watchful eye, and his ready aim, for
longer than the Sanford police thought was suitable a year ago. I am
glad the gated communities managed to survive the siege.

Thought experiments are useless now. Of course, if the races of the
two participants were reversed, Trayvon Martin already would have been
doing time. Of course, black kids have to walk through a world in which
how they're dressed is evidence against them, and how they behave when
profiled by sanctioned (and manifestly incompetent) quasi-vigilantes is
different from how all the rest of us are entitled to behave. They are prima facie
assholes and fucking punks. Of course, black kids can't win fights
without getting shot through the chest. They are supposed to act very
politely, speak when spoken to and, maybe, just get off the sidewalk
when they come in contact with people like George Zimmerman, who is out
on that wall because we want him on that wall. We need him on that wall.

* * *

Calm is prevailing. For now. At least, that's something. There will
be much for George Zimmerman to do. Things may be a little rough back
home, but there will be the victory tour on Fox. And the inevitable book
deal. There will be the long career as a hero to the people in the
communities that feel themselves besieged by assholes and fucking punks
in their hoodies. There will be a long, lovely ride surfing the strange
and wonderful celebrity that will befall him now because he stood up to
the people who defend the rights of asshoes and fucking punks to walk in
their hoodies through neighborhoods where they don't belong, according
to him, George Zimmerman, American hero.

But, sooner or later, what American society has told him he can do,
what it has now made possible, is that George Zimmerman can load his
piece, tuck it into the back of his pants, climb into his SUV, and
cruise the rainy streets of Sanford in the night, all of his senses
a'tingle, all his instincts honed, on the lookout with his hunter's eye
for assholes and fucking punks. There's one down the block. What the
hell's he doing here? Asshole. Fucking punk. Better pull over and check
this out.

Nothing good has come of this whole situation. Nothing.

And the last word, as it so often does in situations like this, belongs to John Dos Passos.

All right we are two nations.

Comments are closed.