Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was walking back from a convenience store to his father’s home inside a gated community in Sanford, Florida, on February 26, 2012, when a neighborhood watchman, 28-year-old George Zimmerman approached him. Within minutes, Martin was shot and killed. It has been a month since the unarmed Martin was killed, and Zimmerman has not been arrested nor charged with the crime despite confessing to the murder.
This is because Zimmerman is being protected by a Florida law enacted in 2005 titled “Stand your Ground," which was and remains heavily supported by the National Rifle Association. This law enables a gun owner to use their weapon in self-defense in any public space, if they feel that their safety is threatened, consequently escaping what would’ve been a prosecution for murder prior to the enactment of this law. This expansion of the traditional “castle doctrine” law, which only legalized the use of gun force in self defense inside one’s home, is now instituted in various forms in 32 states, and has become the subject of a heated debate as many have begun to question how the unarmed Martin could be a threat to Zimmerman.
Tapes released soon after the incident, prove that Zimmerman called 911 to report suspicion of Martin where he said, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good ... These assholes, they always get away.” He then proceeded to follow and confront Martin against the advice of the 911 operator. Forensic evidence further confirms that Martin was approached from behind.
Statistics show that since “Stand your Ground” was enforced in Florida in 2005, justifiable homicide rates have jumped from an average of 12 justifiable homicides a year in Florida, to 33. Examples of murders with no evidence of provocation that were protected by this law include an incident in 2006 where a man directed 14 gun shots at a vehicle carrying a gang member, and a 2011 case where a man stabbed another in the head of with an ice pick following a traffic altercation.
The public outrage that followed Martin’s murder has finally prompted the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI to investigate. This announcement on Monday was soon followed with an announcement that a grand jury will be investigating this murder as well.
So far, the Florida police’s quick resignation to the fact that they have no evidence to dispute Zimmerman’s claims for self defense is one that no longer stands. The 911 tapes demonstrate that Zimmerman decidedly followed Martin and initiated the attack. A testimony from a friend who was talking to Martin on his cell phone at the time also confirms that Martin noticed he was being followed and was uncomfortable, and finally the revelation that Martin was completely unarmed during the attack, carrying only candy and a bottle of iced tea.
Since the attack was unprecedented to such a high degree, evidence easily points to the fact that this murder could be racially motivated. Several murders and attacks that were swept under the rug by both the state and the media have kept us from examining the horrid results of legalizing the use of gun force anywhere at any time with the help of the self defense card. Martin’s untimely death has finally pried this subject open, as we notice that the Stand your Ground law has served to conceal the murders of innocent individuals, and protect aggressive murderers from any charges.