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Massad Ayoob on Guns

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Archive for March 23rd, 2012

Massad Ayoob


Friday, March 23rd, 2012

The death almost a month ago of 17-year old Trayvon Martin at the hands of appointed neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman has become a cause célèbre that has even drawn the notice of our President, who notes that if he had a son he would probably look like Trayvon.  I’m seeing some defending Zimmerman, and most demanding his head on a platter, and a whole lot of people who don’t understand how the justice system is geared to approach these things.

As I’ve said earlier in this blog, in answer to reader query, we don’t know enough about what happened to rush to judgment yet, whether that judgment is justified self-defense, murder, or manslaughter.  The police have made it clear that there is evidence that has not yet been made public, and may not be put forth until the Grand Jury examines the case next month.  Some issues:

The autopsy results, including toxicology screen, have not yet been released. If it turns out that the young man who died was fueled by drugs known to cause violent behavior, could that change our perceptions? That knowledge is not yet in our hands. (Reportedly, Zimmerman was not tested, and police indicate that he showed no signs of drug or alcohol impairment.) My advice to YOU if YOU’RE ever involved in a shooting: request to be taken to a hospital to have a blood sample and toxicology screen taken. A “negative for everything” result will prevent false allegations later that you were drunk or drugged-up when you pulled the trigger.

The death weapon was a Kel-Tec PF9 semiautomatic 9mm pistol. It has been reported that the gun was recovered with a full magazine and that only the chambered round had been fired. This is a condition we associate with something preventing the gun from cycling a fresh round from the magazine into the chamber after the shot was discharged. One thing that can cause that is another man’s hand wrapped around the pistol, retarding its slide mechanism.  This would indicate, as could certain gunshot residue patterns or cuts in certain places if found on Trayvon Martin’s hand(s), that a struggle for a gun was taking place when the fatal shot was fired. This would clearly change the shape of the case. But – WE DON’T KNOW YET.

Both men, according to initial reports, were “squeaky clean” in terms of their background. We now know, meh, not so much.  There were allegations of domestic abuse against Zimmerman, and a conviction for resisting arrest, in his past. Young Mr. Martin was in the complex in the first place so his dad could straighten him out after being kicked out of school for a week…for what, we don’t know.

          Pundits who don’t all seem to understand the concept are tying this shooting in to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law much more than they should. There is conflicting evidence/testimony as to whether Martin approached Zimmerman or vice versa in the penultimate moments before the physical fight that led to the fatal shot.  There is, in short, not yet enough information for any of us outside the investigation to formulate a solid opinion.

Update: Turns out that the Trayvon Martin Facebook page mentioned here last night was the wrong Trayvon Martin; that has been deleted with my apologies, and thanks to those who flagged me to the error.  Also, HuffPost reports that Trayvon had been suspended for chronic truancy, but another source notes that his school’s posted rules do not prescribe that length of suspension for that minor an offense. Meanwhile, the college George Zimmerman had been attending has suspended HIM, due to the current controversy.

My advice? Let’s all “stand our ground,” not participate in the rush to judgment, and wait for the facts and the evidence to become available to us 300 million jurors in the Court of Public Opinion.



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