A Florida jury is busy deliberating the fate of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch commander who shot and killed Skittles schlepper Trayvon Martin. My prediction: Zimmerman walks. Riots ensue. And then everyone settles down and goes about their business. But even if the jury brings back a guilty verdict (gotta be manslaughter) Zimmerman’s life will never be the same. He will always be “that guy.” Which is better than being dead. Yes, well, there is that. A defensive gun use (DGU) doesn’t depend on the legal system for its moral justification. Anyway, I’ve got three major takeaways from this case . . .
Some lawyers (not Ralph) reckon Zimmerman is the exception that proves the rule: don’t talk to the cops. Because George shared his account of the shooting with the police on four separate occasions and chinwagged with great, great American Sean Hannity in full public view, the jury heard Zimmerman’s side of the story without the defendant having to face the dangers of cross-examination. Yes but—
The prosecution would have had a much weaker case without the inconsistencies between the various versions of Zimmerman’s story. With legal representation present at his first (and only) police interview, the shooter’s account would have been even more convincing (e.g., he would have avoided accusations that he was emotionally detached during questioning). Cooperating with the police without a lawyer present may ultimately work out well for George but I see nothing in this trial that contradicts the post-DGU STFU doctrine.
2. Don’t go on patrol
I appreciate the neighborhood watch scheme. We can’t depend on the police so we depend on ourselves and each other. That said, there’s a line between members of a community defending themselves against invaders and anointed individuals going out on patrol looking for criminals. Truth be told, when you look for trouble the odds of finding it rise exponentially.
It’s the difference between assuming a defensive position against home invaders and searching and clearing your house, property and/or immediate vicinity. The first is understandable and strategically defensible. The latter is deeply inadvisable and incredibly dangerous. Actively searching for and confronting bad guys is the cops’ responsibility.
Personally, I don’t fancy taking a bullet for a person who doesn’t appear on my tax return. Nor do I fancy giving a bullet to someone to whose death will impose an emotional, psychological and financial burden on myself and my family. I understand that there are people who feel morally compelled to take that risk. But they should do so with a heightened awareness of the risk reward ratio.
3. Don’t run a gun blog
The State’s case against George Zimmerman rests on the idea that Zimmerman was a wanna-be cop. “He didn’t need to shoot Trayvon Martin,” the prosecution pronounced at the beginning and end of the trial, “He wanted to.” However circumstantial, evidence that an armed self-defender had an “itchy trigger finger” before a defensive gun use makes them more legally vulnerable. “Protected by Smith & Wesson” signs around your property will come back to haunt you.
The trick here is to avoid making public pronouncements—bound to be recorded by someone somewhere—that make you seem like a zealot. There’s nothing inherently wrong with working to extend and defend Americans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. But it’s best to do so without wearing T-shirts that do the cold dead hands thing.
Imagine if George Zimmerman had been a gun blogger. Or an Oath Keeper. He would have had the same right to armed self-defense, of course, but he would have been crucified in the court of public opinion. Which he was anyway. All I’m saying is that anything you say—or write in an email or post on the Internet—can and will be used against you in a court of law should push come to ballistic shove. As George Zimmerman discovered.