Some Thoughts on the Zimmerman Incident

I will not speculate on whether George Zimmerman was justified or not in shooting Trayvon Martin. I don’t have enough facts to make that determination. Neither does the media, but you would never know it given the vast amount of drivel written on the case. The only thing that is clear: the motivations in the Martin case are politically driven, inflamed by the rabble rousers who exist only to further their own public profile. The angry mobs are not fueled by facts, rather by knee-jerk reactions and emotions. So let’s take a deep breath and examine what we do know in a calm, logical, tactical manner . . .

Based on the 911 recorded call, we know that Zimmerman was concerned about someone who “. . . looks like he is up to no good or he is on drugs or something . . .” He stated to the police that there have been “had some break-ins in the neighborhood.” Looking back with hindsight, we might want to ask: “Would Zimmerman have approached Martin knowing that he would end up killing him and being persecuted and prosecuted?” Most likely not would be my guess.

This case clearly exemplifies my article: Heroic Consequences published in the Aug./Sept. 2007 issue of Handguns magazine. All too often, gun owners are willing to—or think they would—intervene in an altercation without a complete understanding of the potential consequences. Zimmerman may have thought that if he simply approached the stranger that he would run off, without contemplation of how the situation could escalate into extreme violence.

When asked, most gun owners will freely admit that when they contemplate intervening in a criminal situation, they don’t think the result may be their own death or spending a lifetime in jail. They imagine stopping the burglary, ending a rape or killing the murderer before the act, without the realization that their action could possibly result in their family having to identify their body in the morgue.

If I advised you to keep away from strangers as contact with a unknown persons could result in a death—possibly your own—you might think that I was overly paranoid, or worse, a nutcase. However, that is precisely what happened in Zimmerman’s scenario. Whenever we interact with another person, there is always at least one gun present—ours, maybe more—the other person may have one as well. Any altercation could escalate to the point of a gunfight and we need to comprehend that fact and its potential consequences before we decide to act.

The fact is, even if you are in the right and completely justified, an altercation could end up with you being shot, getting killed, going to jail, being prosecuted criminally, sued civilly, spending upwards of $200,000 on your defense or a combination thereof.

Anytime a decision needs to be made, consideration of the potential benefit has to be weighed again the consequences. Is the win worth the cost? Whenever I make a decision, I don’t measure just the cost.  The yardstick that I use is the worse case scenario. If I buy $5000 of stock, can I afford the lose the entire $5000 investment?

The question that you have to ask yourself before entering a potentially violent situation is this: are you willing to widow your spouse and orphan your kids? Is stopping the event worth that cost to you because that is a possibility. You may have the skills, you may train constantly, you may do everything right and you can still die in a gunfight. This is worth repeating, you can do everything right and still die in a gunfight.

Unlike in the movies, the guy in the white hat does not always win. Furthermore, winning is not all that it’s cracked up to be either: just look at Zimmerman. He survived and won the fight, but may end up in jail. Even if he is pronounced Not Guilty, he will most likely be financially devastated from the cost of his defense and will be marked by society for the rest of his life. A result hardly worth stopping the potential burglary he envisioned.

A similar example would be hearing someone breaking into your vehicle. The thought of grabbing your gun and approaching the thief is a common solution, but what if you challenge the suspect and he shoots you before you can react? Is your car stereo worth your life?

A rape is a devastating crime, but the rapist may be armed himself. Is stopping the crime worth your death?

You walk into a store and there is an armed robbery taking place. You shoot the guy with the gun, only to find out that he is the store owner. He disarmed the thief and was holding him for the police. Is a lifetime in jail the conclusion you envisioned when you decided to act?

The only thing that I can think of that would be worth the potential consequences of a fight would be the protection of my own family and myself. I am willing to lose everything, including my life, to protect them. That’s a high bar to set, certainly not met by a theft or offense against property. There is nothing I own that is worth the sacrifice of my life.

I have one job every day and that is to “go home” at the end of the day. That means apologizing even if I am right to de-escalate the situation, not allowing a rude driver turn into road rage and I will only fight when my life, or my family’s life, is in danger.

Zimmerman’s action resulted in a death, not by protecting himself, not by protecting someone else, not even by protection of property. The death was a result by his suspicion that a crime might happen in the future. That’s a stupid reason to spend the rest of your life in jail.

When it comes to protection of a third party, it may have been said best by Michael de Bethencourt of snubtraining.com: Are you willing to lose your health, your wealth or your life to protect someone you don’t know, who is not willing to protect themselves by a having their own gun?

 

comments

  1. avatar Tim says:

    I only engage to protect myself or a loved one. Simple as that.

    I really will not stand up for anyone else or try to do police work. They can take care of themselves for having a system that would rather condemn a good Samaritan than deal with actual justice

    1. avatar Snoop-Diggity-DANG-Dawg says:

      “They can take care of themselves for having a system that would rather condemn a good Samaritan than deal with actual justice”

      Oh I see, it’s *their* fault “the system” would rather fault good samaritans than deal with ‘actual justice’. People named “Tim” who really will not stand up for anyone else are remain above of such unsavory business.

      1. avatar Tim says:

        Snoop,

        They (or at least the majority of them) voted for the people who made the system the way it is. So they may not be immediately responsible, but there is a connection between their choices and the system’s state

    2. avatar Chas says:

      Ab-SO-lutely. Each person needs to decide WHY they carry. My reason is to save MY life or the life of someone I love and care about. Period. Finiti. The end.

    3. avatar Derek says:

      I’m not a “Sheepdog” as some people like to claim they are. I’m don’t now, nor will I in the future, go looking for trouble. But I would never simply ignore someone in need.

      I’m not going to abandon little ‘ol granny on the subway who’s getting mugged or a passed out woman in an alley outside a bar getting raped or a screaming child being dragged to a van because I find their lack of situational awareness or defensive weapons disagreeable.

      Don’t get me wrong. I have my priorities; Family, close friends, myself, everyone else. If I can help someone I don’t know without endangering any of the above then I would without hesitation.

      To each his own, but refusing to help someone being victimized out of disdain for their lifestyle choices is cowardice.

      1. avatar Montesa_VR says:

        Agreed, and there are other consequences besides loss of life, money or freedom. There’s the consequence of never being able to look at yourself in the mirror for the rest of your life. There are times when you can’t just walk away.

      2. avatar MadDawg J says:

        Agreed. The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing.

  2. avatar GS650G says:

    Sometimes bad things finds us and leaves us no choice. If you have a choice make it carefully. I think none of us know what we will really do in a bad situation, although we can decide to put ourselves in the line of fire if we have enough hubris. George Z made a mistake and so did Martin. Whether the outcome should result in George in jail is for a jury to decide, not Sharpton or Jackson and their lemmings.
    I personally could not live with myself if I witnessed a crime occurring and did nothing to stop it because I didn’t want to get involved. Just going home that night would be pretty hollow.
    I wouldn’t have followed some guy walking in the rain at night in my neighborhood, that’s not a crime nor is anyone being harmed in front of me.

  3. avatar U. S. Marine veteran says:

    I have to admit that your post makes sense. I was one of those knee-jerk people that assumed that Zimmerman was guilty of racism. Hopefully there will come a day when people will realize that we can’t help being born, and that descrimination based on skin color is childish and immature.

  4. avatar Johnny says:

    If most people saw someone being raped and crying for help, I’m sure most people would intervene including myself.

    Would I follow a hooded stranger at night who looks like he’s “up to no good”? Nope because he isn’t committing any crimes.

    1. avatar Just Another Matt says:

      “Would I follow a hooded stranger at night who looks like he’s “up to no good”? ”

      What if it is your job to protect your neighborhood?The facts of the Ziimerman case have NOT came out yet.We do not know if Zimmerman stopped following Martin when the 911 operator told him to and then was jumped by Martin or if Zimmerman was a couple steps behind Martin.
      I agree that you need to take into your situation before you intervene in something but all that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

      1. avatar irock350 says:

        Unless your a police officer your job isn’t to stop potential crimes from happening. What potential crime was being committed that Zim had to investigate?

        1. avatar Kelly in GA says:

          The SCOTUS has ruled that it isn’t the police’s job to prevent crime from happening to you or the guy next to you. Someone with more knowledge than I could tell you about cases of a guy with a restraining order tracking down his wife and hurting her. The court ruled that the police weren’t negligent. In other words, we’re on our own. Which is why I’m willing, should I know the facts of a situation, to intervene. I would hope that someone would do the same for my family members. After all, that’s still someone’s daughter being attacked. Moreover, my little sister is 18 and going to college on a D1 basketball ride at a private school in NYC. I’d hope someone would help her, if something were to happen.

    2. avatar bontai Joe says:

      Look up “Kitty Genovese murder” and you will see that folks do NOT often go to aid someone being attacked. 38 people wittnessed her murder and didn’t even call the police. The Rodney King beating? Someone videoed it, but no one came to his aid, even though EVERYONE was sure involved after the fact.

  5. avatar Pascal says:

    There are different ways of “getting involved” that do not require you to engage with a gun in hand.

    When I lived in an apartment building, I saw someone breaking into a neighbors car, besides calling the police, I took out my car keys and hit the panic button which sounded the alarm and which caused other alarms to also go off. That was enough without engaging.

    My house as several high intensity flood lights. If I spot something, I will blast them on high.

    Although the family has broken up and moved out, when the neighbors during their divorce would get into heated arguments to the point where something would be literally smashed and thrown through the window, I called 911.

    You don’t have to always engage, but can simply make the authorities aware. Sometime just making the attacker know someone else is watching is enough for them to turn tail.

    I don’t believe you should take the opposite extreme and just close your eyes and ears and walk away.

    “A rape is a devastating crime, but the rapist may be armed himself. Is stopping the crime worth your death?”

    I know someone whom this happened to and that person was never the same, I would have to look deep down and hard to think about this……….

    The point is you need to use your “head” before your “gun” but simply walking away I do not believe I can do.

  6. avatar Snoop-Diggity-DANG-Dawg says:

    1) “I will not speculate on whether George Zimmerman was justified or not in shooting Trayvon Martin.”

    2) “Zimmerman’s action resulted in a death, not by protecting himself, not by protecting someone else, not even by protection of property.”

    Honestly, how do you reconcile these two statements in your own mind? Zimmerman’s actions may absolutely have protected himself, someone else or someone’s property. You just acknowledged in statement #1 that you wouldn’t (shouldn’t) speculate whether or not he was justified. But then you do exactly that.

    And while I can’t speak for you, my one job isn’t just to “go home” at the end of the day. Part of my job is to sustain my community by doing boring things like witnessing & participating, whic is exactly what GZ did when he called 911. Hiding behind the couch waiting for that lone rapist to come flying through the window isn’t good enough.
    When I hear someone scream or a window shatter in my neighborhood it absolutely becomes “my business”. It’s where my kids are growing up. It’s where my wife works. This is where I live, and I’m not surrendering it to malicious dirtbags.

    1. avatar Jack says:

      These two statements CAN be reconciled. The idea is that George Zimmerman may have suffered an attack that may ultimately justify the shooting, but he got to that point because of needless escalation.

      1. avatar Snoop-Diggity-DANG-Dawg says:

        Really? Needless escalation? What if he had just gone home forgotten the whole thing, only to find out the next morning our saintly 17 year-old had broken into someone’s home & murdered/raped somebody?

        It wouldn’t heve been “needless escalation” then, would it? We’d be sitting around moaning about ‘why nobody cares’, and “lack of community”, and why wouldn’t somebody *do* something”.

        1. avatar Jack says:

          If I saw a person who simply looked suspicious as he walked through my neighborhood, I would call the police and provide a description. I would not confront the person and risk the consequences of escalation. But we all have to make our own decisions in this kind of situation.

  7. avatar karlb says:

    Rabbi, this was wonderfully written and thought provoking. I fear that too many people have the desire to stop bad guys from doing bad things. While there is nothing wrong with that, when that is the underlying desire, bad choices can too easily be made. There have been times on TTAG that I have been rather uncomfortable reading responses by writers I genuinely admire that talk about how thieves deserve to die, and that criminals who are gunned down simply improve the gene pool or save society the cost of incarceration. To me, seeing thieves as worthy of death adds to this problem. When we have already decided that people should die for illegal activities, it influences how we will act and react. Hey, I have had two cars stolen, and suffered from several break-ins to my cars. These were not fun, but I would not kill a person who is stealing my car. Come close to my child, and that is a different matter. Break into my house, and expect a swift and violent welcome. I am not a pacifist. I just worry that too many people might make Zimmerman-esque decisions, and they, and others, will suffer.

  8. avatar Tommy Knocker says:

    Rabbi, I find your article to be thought provoking to say the least. With all respect it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come up with a scenario that really challenges one’s ethics. Let us take a scene that an armed citizen happens upon. It is a large angry adult beating a young child with a baseball bat. Neither is known to you. Maybe you have a cell phone maybe not. In either case it will be minutes before a badge would get there. One more strike will cripple or kill the child. What to do?

    Or let us take the following true situation of the Amish schoolhouse murders. Adult who is armed has children lined up and is shooting them one by one. You by some cosmic happenstance are injected into the scene. Would you stand by? You are the only one with a method to escape or stop the killer. Do you leave the children to die?

    Hmmm….Without any disrespect, what if you are armed and watching the trains being loaded to head into the death camps? What about the helo pilot that stopped the My Lai massacres. The whole world has such pivot points of conscience on a daily basis. I suspect that such musings are the stuff of religion sir. The good book is loaded with tests of conscience.

    This world Rabbi is filled with great uncertainty. The one thing we can count on is that we will all die and have to justify our actions to the Creator. There are some situations where I would be more worried about that.

  9. avatar Moonshine7102 says:

    That last sentence is what we all must individually decide after suitable, honest introspection. Good stuff, Rabbi.

  10. avatar rabbi says:

    Thanks for all your replies. It comes down to this: If you decide to act, do so with a complete understanding of the consequences. Don’t ask yourself, it is worth stopping?, ask yourself is it worth dying over to stop? As that, is the potential.

  11. avatar tdiinva says:

    My guns are for the protection of my family and property and no one else. If I see someone attack you or break into your house I will call 911 and if possible shoot some video to turn over to the police. If you do not feel the need to get the means necessary to defend yourself until the police arrive then you have made the choice and I am not going to risk my life, freedom or fortune to bail you out. I am not taking a “none of my business” approach but my role as a good citizen is to observe, report and render whatever aid I can when it is safe to do so.

  12. avatar Robert Farago says:

    The NRA Guide to the Basics of Personal Protection in the Home has something to say on this subject:

    Even when it is necessary and justified, shooting a violent criminal is not a pleasant experience.

    So now you know.

    1. avatar Moonshine7102 says:

      It’s sad that this needs to be said, but there are some people who are completely unaware of the mess that needs to be cleaned up after a shooting. Physical, legal and emotional.

  13. avatar Aharon says:

    Good post. There is much common sense and practical wisdom in it. I am increasingly of the mindset to avoid becoming involved in the conflict of unknown others especially in modern society that seems by design to increasingly penalize ‘heroes’ as much if not more than the ‘villains’.

    Hypothetically, if a pregnant woman was being assaulted physically or sexually on the street, by moral instinct then I used to believe it is the duty to go to her aid. Yet, I’m not so sure anymore. Life in modern society is increasingly less simple in deciding what is the right thing to do. Is it worth it to risk being successfully sued, crippled, killed, or sent to prison for life? Did she get herself into the situation by her own stupid decisions and bad behavior? Did the pregnant woman earlier throw the attacker’s child down the stairs or steal the attacker’s property? Perhaps in older traditional societies such questions and potential risks would not be a consideration as they are in modern society. I’m idealistic yet I have my limits.

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      In the early 20s Maj George S. Patton was driving with his wife Beatrice in NYC. He observed two men apparently forcing a woman into the back of a truck. He stops his car gets out draws his gun and intervenes to rescue the woman. Turns out that it was just a man and his brother helping his wife into the back the truck. What you see is often not what you think it is.

  14. avatar Stant says:

    “A rape is a devastating crime, but the rapist may be armed himself. Is stopping the crime worth your death?”

    How could I pass this by and still call myself a man?

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Would you leave your children fatherless to save a stranger? To me, that’s not manhood.

      1. avatar Ron says:

        This is the same logic I use when it comes to getting in a fight to defend my easily replaced and insured material possessions from a burglar or home invaders with a perfectly good window to my back.

      2. avatar Aharon says:

        Ralph and Ron, all good points to consider. Many men do have others who depend on them on a daily or frequent basis. Rape is bad yet is experiencing it afterwards any worse than a man who gets crippled, maimed, brain damaged, or worse defending against the attack? Is the person being attacked worthy enough to take the risk for? I don’t consider my life a disposable commodity.

        1. avatar Stant says:

          Really?

          You would walk on by a woman being raped in the street because you might get hurt?

          Everyone dies. I know it sounds trite but it’s true. What matters is how one lives.

          Are the soldiers fought in and at times died in wars that ensured your freedom fools because they chose to serve rather than stay home and look after their own? What is better to fight for freedom or to live as a slave? If you fight you might get hurt but if you just do as the nice man tells you he will have no reason to harm you, will he?

          Bad man stop doing bad things once they have gotten what they want right? Or do they like the scorpion do what is in its nature? Did hitler stop at the sudetenland? Will the rapist stop at your neighbors wife or daughter and never rape again. Or do you think he might the next time he feels the urge be out prowling again? Perhaps even in your backyard this time. I have four daughters and I hope that if they are ever in need that a brave person steps forward to help them just as I would help theirs.

          All that’s necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.
          -Edmund Burke

          Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither. -Ben Franklin

  15. avatar Ralph says:

    Are you willing to lose your health, your wealth or your life to protect someone you don’t know, who is not willing to protect themselves by a having their own gun?

    No f^cking way. I carry to protect me and mine, not to protect them and theirs. For my own protection, I carry a cell phone and a handgun. For the protection of “them,” I carry a cell phone. Sorry, peeps, but after I make the call for you and maybe — maybe –make some threat noises to encourage the BG to disengage, you’re on your own.

    1. avatar David says:

      Cocked, locked, and ready to rock!

    2. avatar Kelly in GA says:

      Usually, I agree with you wholeheartedly, Ralph, but here, I can’t. As I posted above, my little sister is 18 and about to go to college. Is it her fault then, if someone were to assault her just off campus outside a restaurant? She “chose” not to defend herself? If you could imagine your kids being left to be hurt by a BG while a gun carrying permit holder like yourself called 911 and reported, then I guess the “me and mine only” mentality is perfect for you.

      As for me, I will intervene because I want someone else to help my baby sister if she ever can’t help herself. Same reason I stop and change tires for people when I can. Hope someone one day will pay it forward to my family members.

      1. avatar Kelly in GA says:

        BTW, Ralph I reread my comment and I apologize if it sounds like I’m attacking you. I was/am posting on my phone lying in bed. Didn’t come out quite right, sorry.

  16. avatar Mides says:

    Your statement: “Would Zimmerman have approached Martin knowing that he would end up killing him and being persecuted and prosecuted?” Most likely not would be my guess.”

    Your statement: “… I don’t have enough facts to make that determination. Neither does the media, but you would never know it given the vast amount of DRIVEL written on the case. ”

    Yes I believe that your article is DRIVEL since you are doing the same thing that you specifically accuse others of doing.

  17. avatar rabbi says:

    Please tell me precisely what am I doing that I accuse others of doing.

  18. avatar Ron says:

    I have often stated I believe that it is foolish to engage in a fight that can be avoided.
    I have also stated what I will not tolerate personally or where my loved ones are concerned.
    I have planned and prepared for most situations.

    Where the public at large is concerned, I honestly have no idea what I would do.

    I think my actions would depend on the circumstances.
    I know the first thing I would do is dial 911.
    Then I would assess the situation.

    If there are multiple assailants involved, would I be able to help or just committing suicide?
    If forced to use my gun will I be able do so without hitting the victim?
    What will be the consequence to the victim if I don’t intervene?
    Does the nature of the crime warrent intervention?
    If I intervene in an armed robbery and the victim is killed as a result, will I regret the intervention? What if I am the one who accidentally shoots the victim?
    And so on.

    Johnny stated he believes most people would intervene and I would like to agree,but I have heard of many instances where this did not happen.
    One that comes to mind was a woman who was stabbed to death on a busy city street ( I seem to remember NYC) while many watched and did nothing. Then allowed the assailant to leave the scene.
    Reading this made me feel angry and sad with, then ashamed of, society.
    I hope I would have reacted differently.I believe I would have. But I was not there.
    If I am ever attacked or intervenein an attack, I hope others will help but I don’t expect it.

    One last thought.
    Many years ago (30+) I saw a large man and a woman screaming at each other in front of a store I was walking toward. The man shoved the woman to the sidewalk. When she got up he slapped her across the nose and mouth.
    I shouted, ” Hey buddy take it easy!”
    The woman smeared the blood across her face with the back of her hand, looked at me and screamed, “MIND YOUR OWN FUCKING BUSINESS!”

  19. avatar Mides says:

    Here is one of your opening statement:

    “I don’t have enough facts to make that determination. Neither does the media, but you would never know it given the vast amount of drivel written on the case. ”

    You are accusing others of writing drivel about the case given that they do not have enough facts to make the determination and I quote you: “on whether George Zimmerman was justified or not in shooting Trayvon Martin”.

    You now continue with:

    “we might want to ask: “Would Zimmerman have approached Martin knowing that he would end up killing him and being persecuted and prosecuted?” Most likely not would be my guess.”

    You base your entire article on this question. The question itself is speculative and you continue to answer it with a “GUESS”.

    Writing an article based on your speculation and guessing given that it is about an unarmed kid that got killed for no apparent reason which is highly contreversial is pure drivel.

    1. avatar Moonshine7102 says:

      “an unarmed kid that got killed for no apparent reason”
      —–
      Pot, meet kettle.

      1. avatar Mides says:

        Who’s the Pot and who’s the Kettle?

        1. avatar Moonshine7102 says:

          Doesn’t really matter, does it? You accuse the Rabbi of the very thing your statement proves you to be guilty of: drawing a conclusion without all of the facts.

        2. avatar Mides says:

          Just attacking back for the sake of defending rabbi is not enough. You need to read what rabbi wrote clearly and understand the English language. “Pot meets kettle.” does not cut it!

        3. avatar Moonshine7102 says:

          I’m not defending the Rabbi at all; I don’t know him from Adam. I’m calling out a hypocrite. That, sir, does in fact “cut it”.

  20. avatar Steve says:

    Would I shoot to protect others?

    If it were a plainly obvious situation like an active shooter gunning people down at a mall , Why yes, absolutely.

    Other situations are going to require some discretion, under pressure erring always on the no shoot side of the equation.

    I’m not letting anyone have my wallet either. If I can stop them with my fists fine. If not, that’s their problem. If I draw, they can run. They will not be harmed. Or they can continue the attack and suffer a bad outcome.

    And I’m going to reject the idea that in trying to look out for his neighbors, Zimm did anything wrong.

    Watching somebody isn’t a crime, unless it’s the same somebody, over time.

    Neither is asking why they are there. It may be nosy, but not minding one’s own business isn’t a crime either.

    By all accounts, Trayvon Martin was precisely what he appeared to be on that day which is to say, riff raff. Zimm’s instincts were good, his actions both legal and moral, as far as we know, and only unwise in a modern context where we are supposed to ignore everything, go home, bar the door, and let the rest of society spiral out of control. Personally, I reject idea of ignoring crime and criminals (or potential ones). I reject living in fear, peeking out from behind the blinds. The number one thing you can do is to let suspicious persons know they are being observed, and that’s what Zimm did. And I’m fine with that.

    I’m also OK with others decision to make it a ‘me and mine only’ call. They made their decision and I’m not advocating any different. But I have no criticism for those that choose otherwise.

    1. avatar rabbi says:

      “If it were a plainly obvious situation like an active shooter gunning people down at a mall , Why yes, absolutely. ”

      I did say that you should not act in that situation. That’s up to you. I am merely stating that you ask yourself if you are willing to die to do so. In the linked article that I wrote, you will find two examples of law-abiding citizens acting in defense and getting killed.

      “Watching somebody isn’t a crime.” True, all would have ended well if Zimmerman only watched, but he took action, which escalated into violence. Now Zimmerman is in jail because he did more than just watch. He was concerned about recent burglaries. Would a death and jail sentence be worth it in order to stop a burglary?

      Again, my point is that the consequences of your action can be far beyond what you think they may and you have to assume the worst before making a decision to act.

      1. avatar CarlosT says:

        In your linked article, it seems like the mistake the Tacoma man made was trying to effect a citizen’s arrest instead of pulling the trigger. It’s possible he would still have gotten shot if he hadn’t succeeded in stopping the shooter with the first shots, but it seems like shooting would have been the much better course of action.

  21. avatar Stacy says:

    Also, if you come across a crime in progress you have to think about whether all is really as it seems. You come across George Zimmerman accosting Trayvon Martin – who’s the bad guy? Or you’re a minute later and Martin has Zimmerman on the ground? Now who?

    1. avatar rabbi says:

      Thanks for adding that. That concept is discussed in depth in the linked article

      1. avatar Bill F says:

        Too often during our decision process we ask first, “What are the chances of this going good/bad?” Before that stage, we should be looking at risk vs. reward. If the potential risk is large and the reward insignificant, the idea is bad–no matter what the chance of success. Like your stock analogy. The risk of losing the whole nut might be worth it if the potential reward is huge and the loss would be affordable. But taking the same risk for a possible 5% return would be foolish and no analysis of the likelihood of success is needed.
        In Z’s case, he may not have made a conscious decision to end up where he did–confronting a suspected BG while he (Zimmerman) was armed. I doubt he grabbed his gun and went looking for robbers. He was probably carrying like many of us, as a habit (he was on his way to the store), but then happened (blundered?) into a situation where he felt his life was threatened and used his weapon for its very purpose. I don’t believe he chose to risk an armed encounter simply to protect stuff. I think he forgot to choose. I think he acted exactly how he would have if he had been unarmed. Until the fatal moment. His situational awareness didn’t include what was going on in his own bubble–the fact he was armed and being held to a higher/different standard than if he’d been unarmed. That alone doesn’t make him guilty of anything. And if it happened like he says, I certainly hope he walks–soon. But making a few choices ahead of time and burning them into our minds could prevent a terrible shitstorm like the one Z found himself in.

  22. avatar LTC F says:

    I choose to carry a firearm for one reason only, to protect the lives of my family and myself. I will not use it to defend my property, my neighbors’ property, or a stranger’s property.

    If I come home and someone is carrying my TV out of the house, I will call 911. I don’t own anything worth taking a human life over. (From experience, nothing can prepare you for the reality of killing another human being. I killed people who were doing their damnedest to kill me and my friends, and I still have nightmares about it.) My insurance company will replace what I lost.

    If you cut through my backyard in a hoodie, I will not leave my house to investigate. I will call the police. If you break into my house while I or my family is home, there will be no discussion, no warnings, you will die where you stand, as I assume you have broken into my occupied home to do harm to my family.

    Anyone who decides to carry a weapon has to determine before he ever purchases the weapon, under what circumstances he is willing to take a life, and under what circumstances he is willing to risk his own life. I don’t know that George Zimmerman thought through the circumstances where he would physically intervene, and where a call to 911 would suffice.

    1. avatar Sanchanim says:

      I agree with LTC.
      Mr. Zimmerman didn’t think things through. Sure we can all sit here and analyze things after the fact, but in my own opinion Mr. Zimmerman should have never have gotten more than half a city block from Mr. Martin. Unless he was in the middle of stabbing someone that you watched him attack with out provocation or something along those lines.
      Property is not worth a human life and certainly in the article it even talks about rape. I do need to put a disclaimer on there, if I were attacked on the street, or while in my car, I would fight tooth and nail. The only reason is that once they are doing doing what they are going to do I would say there is a 50 50 chance of winding up dead anyways even if you did nothing.
      I could be wrong on the percentage, but the point is myself and my fmaily are sacred and it is hands off period..

    2. avatar gar says:

      Well put, LTC.

  23. avatar JJHunt says:

    I agree with a number of people, you should know why you carry before you find yourself in a situation. The less you have to process at the moment of conflict could be what saves your life or someone else.

    I have to consider myself a sheepdog because I know I would rather look at myself proudly in the mirror of my prison cell rather than never being able to look at a mirror again. Sure, I’ll try to evaluate the situation and take the best course of action, but that course of action is based on my basic moral attitude. And again, I agree with others, not everything is a simple as good and bad, yes or no, but whatever decision I make will have to be mine. Whatever decisions anyone else makes after that is theirs to make with their own moral attitude.

  24. avatar RayRayII says:

    “The only thing that is clear: the motivations in the Martin case are politically driven, inflamed by the rabble rousers who exist only to further their own public profile.”

    And here are but two examples of that rabble rousing:

    http://weaselzippers.us/2012/04/17/obama-ties-trayvon-martin-shooting-to-anti-immigrant-sentiment-in-america/

    http://weaselzippers.us/2012/04/17/mooch-on-trayvon-martin-shooting-there-isnt-a-one-shot-solution-to-this/

    1. avatar Bob says:

      MSNBC has been blatant in their sensationalism. Just a week ago they were still showing Martin as a 12 year old next to Zimmerman. They also had some “expert” on who basically said the 911 operator ordered Zimmerman to not follow and Zimmerman disobeyed.

      What I think will happen, if it hasn’t already, is police chiefs in the U.S. will tell their officers to arrest all self-defense shooters no matter how much evidence there is to support the shooter. They saw the near lynching the Sanford police chief got, and they’re not about to have that happen to them.

  25. avatar dave says:

    This whole mess has simply reiterated what my mother has been trying to teach me since I was old enough to understand her words: Never ever go looking for a fight, or do something that could be percieved as picking a fight. This would include volunteering as a watch officer when you are armed, because now you are in a way trying to pick a fight.
    People seem to have this view that volunteering as a watch officer or something along those lines is an altruistic act. I think that it is an incredibly selfish act, because you are now taking time away from your friends and loved ones and risking your life to protect people who choose not to protect themselves. And before anyone mentions it, I consider military service to be a different matter from this, as military service can impart valuable skills and a good reputation while (in theory and I guess mostly in practice) it actively defends your family, friends, and country from death by terrorist attack/invasion by a foreign power. As a watch officer such as in Zimmerman’s case, you are risking it all to defend property of someone else. See the difference?
    And let me throw in another scenario, one that I think is a bit tougher than the excellent ones provided by rabbi: For whatever reason, the world in your immediate vicinity has gone SHTF. There is chaos on the streets, looting and murder are rampant, food is increasingly scarce, and the local prison has released all the inmates either due to laws written by hippy-dippy leftists that won’t let them die, or because they have escaped, the local cops have deserted, help from the National Guard or other entity is either a long ways away or isn’t coming at all, and there is no way you can bug out of town due to these factors. Oh, and you (like me) are a minority, and that has made you a target to the marauding violent mobs.
    And now, in the middle of hell coming apart at the seams, here comes neighbors and friends: people you know and like, people you used to laugh with and have lunch with; overall good people, some of whom you have likely known and been good friends with for years. But they didn’t like guns. They didn’t dislike you because of your hobby, they weren’t Brady bunch loonies, they just didn’t share your views, but respected them all the same. They thought the idea of keeping a small cabinet filled with canned foods was unnecessary, because if bad weather or whatever came, Wal-Mart is just a 5min drive away.
    And now they are all approaching your house because you have guns to defend yourself and your family, with a small stash of emergency food to feed them. And those old friends want to get in on the deal.
    So what do you do? Personally, I know damn well what I’ll do: I will throw my former friends a few old survival handbooks that I no longer read and tell them they have exactly 90 seconds to leave my property. If they get upset, I’ll tell them a little more forcefully. If they object violently, well…put it to you this way: there are currently only two (2) things in this world I would do anything for. Those two things are my mother and my little sister. I’m not trying to be mr.rambo-big-man-tough-guy here, I am simply stating a sentiment have for my loved ones. I am perfectly willing to shoot everyone else I know in order so save a few extra scraps of food for those two. Maybe if I had a spouse, she would be on that list. Would I enjoy killing and/or maiming people I liked if it came to it? HELL NO! I don’t even like the thought of killing some scumbag I’ve never met before in a totally justifiable DGU, but damn it, I WILL do anything, including things I hate doing if it helps my loved ones out even a little bit. I think anyone who isn’t willing to do this for their loved ones needs to seriously reassess their value as a person.
    But again, what would you do in a situation like that? Are you willing to ruin your own life (remember, the chances of you becoming hooked on drugs/alcohol or even killing yourself after you do horrible things like that is high) to save your family?
    Put it to you this way for me personally: I have never killed another human being. If a drug-dazed AK-47 wielding gang-member jumped me while I was alone, I’d like to think that I am 99.9% likely to pull the trigger on my own gun, mainly due to mindset and practice. Now if it was someone I knew and liked trying to take food or water away from my loved ones while they are unarmed in a situation like the one I described above, I know that I am 100% willing to pull the trigger, and 99.9999% likely to hate myself afterwards for doing it.
    So I guess what I am trying to say is this: know when to use a gun (to protect the important things) and when not to (to protect others who choose not to protect themselves).

  26. avatar Tom says:

    I think using a gun to defend just property is idiotic.
    Defending oneself and family in dire and life threatening circumstances, more reasonable.
    Defending close friends in your immediate company against a deadly threat, reasonable.
    Intervening with a gun into a confrontational situation between strangers with an unknown scenario background, not a good idea.
    Attempting to save known innocent strangers from an attacking known mad gunman, gee, that gets really dicey. I might shoot if in the immediate company of the known strangers and it is only a matter of little time before I am in harm’s way.
    Else, very risky both physically and legally.

    I will say that I would try to use a gun as only a last resort, and use concealement, cover, mobility and a cell phone as prior measures.

    1. avatar THRUTHY says:

      In Texas you can legally shoot someone trying to steal your property. Is it a good idea?? Probably not, ask GZ.

  27. avatar CCDWGuy says:

    Recently I was driving home and noticed someone walking through my front yard and into my neighbors yard. No one where I live walks through neighbors front yards. He was wearing a hoodie. When I turned into my driveway he turned around and started walking down the sidewalk. I got very concerned, waited until he passed my house, closed the garage doors and waited until they hit the ground. I thought about it and called the local police. It was Superbowl Night and there were a lot of cars in driveways and we had a recent series of car break ins. Found out the next day a couple cars were broken into. I had also contacted my neighbor….a doctor from down the street had come by and dropped some information they needed on the front porch. Right call on my part and I was carrying at the time.

  28. avatar KC says:

    I feel that it takes so little to change a situation from one in which you would not have intervened to one in which you wish that maybe you had:
    -you were napping because you are sick, you wake up to some noises outside and look out the upstairs bedroom window and see someone in the final seconds of stealing your car from your driveway. You would have had time to rush out to confront them but you think “it’s only my car, I’ll call 911 and give them a good description of this guy”.

    -same scenario continues: criminal drives off in your car, you then notice your wife lying unconscious next to the car and…wait! When you went for your nap she was with the baby safely in the family room in the basement. Was she going to the store with the baby when she was attacked? Is your child in your car that the criminal just drove off in?

    I agree with a lot of the good comments here on both sides of the issue: can you pass up a crime in progress and still look yourself in the mirror? Can you intervene and get shot leaving your family without the father/husband they need? While there might be easy answers for some I think a lot of us don’t have a strict line we’ll never cross when someone is in need and while we might have guidelines in our head our best laid plans will get re-evaluated on the fly when faced with a situation.

    We’re social creatures, we’re naturally curious and I honestly feel that most of us prefer to see ‘good’ triumph over ‘evil’. I’m always going to try to do my best to make the right and safe decision in a stressful situation. That being said I’d love to say that my choice would always be to rush home and barricade myself in the safety of my home with my family – but I don’t think I could ever in good conscience walk away from a man being beaten to death with a baseball bat, a woman screaming while being raped, a child trying to fight off an abductor, a crazy gunman shooting up a school, etc.

  29. avatar John says:

    An wonderful description, rabbi. Thank you for describing the cost much better than I could.

  30. avatar U.S. ARMY Vet (ret) says:

    I don’t need a gun to overpower a 17 yr old 140 lbs unarmed teenager. Preach on! Remember a 17 yr old kid is dead, for what!

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