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?