On Saturday, we were deeply disappointed by the news that George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin. Justice is not served when a man carrying a loaded, concealed handgun in public is allowed to stalk and kill an unarmed teenager without consequence.
Sadly, Florida’s extremely weak gun laws set the stage for Trayvon Martin’s senseless death. Under the state’s concealed weapons laws, George Zimmerman was issued a permit to carry a hidden gun, despite the fact that he had previously been arrested for assaulting a police officer and had a history of domestic violence. If Zimmerman had not been carrying a gun that night, Trayvon Martin would still be alive today.
Florida’s “shoot first” law only exacerbated the danger by removing Zimmerman’s duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense in public. These laws promote gun violence by shielding shooters from criminal liability for death or great bodily injury, even when such death or injury could have been avoided.
As a nation, we must learn from Trayvon Martin’s death that more guns in public do not make us safer, and use this tragedy as an opportunity to closely evaluate our nation’s gun laws.
As President Obama observed, the way to honor Trayvon Martin is to “ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis” and to focus on how we can prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.
Preventing unnecessary gun deaths starts with education.