Jury Duty

I had to go in for jury duty today. It was pretty easy. About two hundred of us were called. Only twelve or so got picked. The rest of us, me included, got to sit around. I had a good book, so I didn’t sweat it.

All the while sitting there I thought about how heinous it would be to sit on a terrible jury, you know, Michael Jackson or something. I wouldn’t want the press asking me why I decided one way or another. Well, on the surface I thought that. Then I thought about Trayvon Martin.

From what I’ve heard that jury only considered what transpired after George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin actually became engaged in fighting. They accepted that Trayvon threw the first punch and that meant he set the story up for them. They didn’t see any culpability in George Zimmerman’s decision making or his apparent mindset leading up to the confrontation. I’m afraid I do.

They said that George Zimmerman didn’t break the law, but that he was responsible. That essentially means that they didn’t see anything in what he did leading up to the confrontation over which they could decide whether he was guilty or not of killing Trayvon Martin. My Dad used to punish me for not taking care of how I used my BB gun when I was a kid. My Dad would have said,  “He had a gun and he didn’t respect what the power that brought to the situation meant.”

There is a problem with siding with George Zimmerman simply because you believe in gun rights. The problem is multifaceted, but starting with his lack of respect for what his gun brought to the outcome of any confrontation is not a bad place to begin.

First of all, it meant that he was guaranteed victory, unless Trayvon also had a gun. There is the question of whether he knew he had what it took to pull the trigger, but assuming we can extrapolate from his violent history we can probably dispense with the notion that he went in trying to prove himself. Or can we? We can probably say that he had a history, but that he might still have not been certain if he could pull the trigger, in which case his mind might not have been on trying to assess Trayvon as anything other than a threat, otherwise he would have known all about killing and would probably not have courted it. If he was assessing Trayvon only as a threat then his chances of understanding he was following a kid in a manner that the kid could only take as intimidating, thus pushing him to fight or flight, may have been diminished.  For heaven’s sake, he was a neighborhood watch person, which to me means you spot trouble and call the cops, not that you take confrontation as far, or farther, as following.

To me not respecting the power of the gun and then taking it into a confrontation where the parameters begged the dimension of proving yourself is negligent thinking. People get done for killing other people every day when they do that behind the wheel. Why doesn’t it apply to the use of a gun?

Second, why does gun advocacy have to mean not being held accountable, even if you believe your life was in danger? For a long time now, pretty much all of the Twentieth Century for certain and up until now, society has put the life or death decisions about the use of guns into the hands of people we can trust that power to. We have accepted that those decisions have to be made, but that those who make them need training in order to properly make them. Why is it that any ordinary citizen with a gun’s only necessary training is whether they were afraid?

The right to bear arms was framed in the context of the militia. That meant that the use of a gun would always be within the predetermined parameters of a military conflict. The user would always know that they were shooting at an enemy.

Do you see the frightening standard? If the yardstick is fear, and not reasoned assessment, we are in trouble because anybody can be afraid. Our fears don’t have to be grounded in reality. The training the police receive is meant to ground their decision making in reality. To not take this into consideration when determining guilt is to allow fear to dominate our relations with each other. One of the bases for civilization is to acknowledge that there are reasons to fear each other, but to find ways to somehow live better even though those reasons exist. If we go down this road that aspect of our civilization comes under suspicion. In the same way that the public perception is that there is crime everywhere, even when crime statistics actually show it is going down, people can unreasonably fear one another. Their fears can become fixated on many more aspects of how we understand each other than race. Going down this road is dangerous.

At any rate, Trayvon Martin is dead and George Zimmerman was declared not guilty. We: whether we love guns, are indifferent to them or hate them have to live with that. I don’t believe in double jeopardy. Neither do I think this will be the last time George gets in trouble. People like him can’t seem to stay out of it. It becomes a pattern in their lives. In the interest of seeing the best outcome I’ll say this, maybe he should find a way to get some training?


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