[UPDATE 6:20 p.m. EDT] As this column was being published on Thursday, the Sanford Police Department announced that all evidence in the Zimmerman case is being held at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice, including the gun used in the killing of Trayvon Martin, suggesting there may be a federal case being considered. Zimmerman could still legally carry a different firearm in the state of Florida now that he’s been acquitted as long as his concealed carry permit has not expired.
Original story begins here:
Now that a Florida jury says it’s legal for armed people to follow unarmed people they deem suspicious-looking, and then shoot them dead in self-defense if tailing them leads to physical confrontation, is it OK to revoke acquitted killer George Zimmerman’s license to carry his Tec 9 pistol on his pants? And is it also OK to point out that Trayvon Martin would be alive today if Zimmerman had not been empowered by the state of Florida to legally carry a gun hidden from sight?
We’ve all heard the gun rights arguments that assert people have a right to defend themselves, and that gun laws only harm law-abiding citizens while criminals get them by other means. And they're valid points.
Most law-abiding gun owners are statistically more likely to use their weapons to commit suicide than homicide and most wouldn’t, like Zimmerman did, force a physical confrontation by stalking a suspicious-looking person despite a specific request from a police dispatcher not to do so.
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Most law-abiding gun owners have also never assaulted a cop, which is what Zimmerman was charged with doing in 2005 in Orange County, Fla. -- a charge that was reduced after Zimmerman agreed to enter an alcohol re-education program.
Is assaulting a police officer a crime worthy of losing your constitutional right to keep and bear arms? No.
Is assaulting a police officer enough to raise doubts about a person’s ability to be trusted with a gun in his pocket at all times with a concealed carry permit? Go ask a cop.
Zimmerman's lawyer, Mark O'Mara, said his client needs protection now more than ever. After all, someone might decide to take the law into his or her hands and shoot Zimmerman dead -- and that would be very wrong, because premeditated assassination is a crime worse than the one Zimmerman got away with.
But there are other ways Zimmerman can protect himself besides continuing to pose a threat to people he deems suspicious. Residents of Central Florida, or wherever else Zimmerman ends up throughout his life, deserve to be protected from him.
The Florida Civil Rights Association, as well as local clergy members and other community activists, have been calling for the past year for Gov. Rick Scott to use his executive power to suspend Zimmerman’s concealed carry gun permit to protect the public, but so far their demands have fallen on deaf ears. A petition at Change.org was started on July 13 calling on Florida officials to revoke Zimmerman’s gun permit. In five days, it has garnered about 12,800 signatures.
The Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms, but states also have the right to keep and bear some ground rules for carrying guns around in the general public. America isn’t Afghanistan, where it’s wise to cart around a Kalashnikov. It’s not the Wild West, either, where you could shoot a man for stealing your horse. It’s the United States. It’s 2013.
There should be specific high-bar ground rules for who gets to carry a gun around in public, which has a right to be protected from self-proclaimed peacekeeping vigilantes who think a three-hour gun course and a background check give them the same skills as real law enforcement officers, which is an insult to law enforcement officers.
Had Zimmerman been denied a conceal-carry permit based on his history, it’s unlikely he would have had the courage to act out his fantasy by trailing a young black man armed with Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea.