Response to USA Today’s Editorial Board Thoughts on Trayvon Martin

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In an attempt to restore some logic and sense to the ongoing debate over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, I’m going to respond to a USA Today Editorial Board perspective that pretty much sums up the consensus the mainstream media has about the case, i.e. guns, gun culture and common sense self-defense laws are to blame for the death of the Florida teen.

Below you’ll find the entire USA Today editorial piece italicized and in block quotes, but with my thoughts and comments interspersed.

Just about every aspect of why and how George Zimmerman came to fatally shoot an unarmed teenager on Feb. 26, 2012, is open for debate.

But one conclusion ought to be obvious: If Zimmerman had not been carrying a gun that night, Trayvon Martin would be alive today.

An unarmed Zimmerman probably would have heeded police advice to stay in his truck after seeing someone he believed was “up to no good.” And even if the neighborhood watch volunteer had left the vehicle, his altercation with Martin is unlikely to have turned deadly if a firearm had not been involved.

Alright, let’s stop right there.  Many journalists and gun control proponents continue to argue this point.

However, what the fail to consider is the other real possibility.  That is, if Zimmerman not had a gun, would he still be alive today?

In that situation, a punch to the face is not like a punch to the face as if one were standing, it’s the weight of the man’s body, plus the force generated by his fist striking the head into the ground.  There’s no way for the man on the bottom to slip or dodge or roll with the bunch (Watch the video below, it’s Massad Ayoob on Florida’s SYG law.  He breaks down disparity of force in great detail starting around the 9 minute mark). Think about it. It appears, based on the facts of the case (the photo evidence of Zimmerman’s cuts and bruises), that Zimmerman was getting his butt kicked by Martin. More specifically, that Trayvon was on top of Zimmerman, slamming his head onto the pavement, which has the potential to become deadly because of the disparity of force.

Again, assuming Martin was on top of Zimmerman, If Zimmerman had not had a gun, would he have walked away from the fight?  Is it possible he would have sustained brain damage?  Might he have been killed?

It’s certainly possible.  Though, the larger point is, who knows what would have happened had Zimmerman not have been armed.  Any argument one way or the other is purely speculation.

Viewed from that perspective, the Zimmerman case is a byproduct of a society that in the past three decades has made it easier for people to buy guns, to carry concealed guns, to take guns into more places, and to bear less responsibility to retreat from dangerous situations.

In 1981, 19 states prohibited people from carrying a hidden weapon in public. And 28 states granted law enforcement the discretion to issue permits based on guidelines set by each state.

But a powerful gun lobby has turned that system upside down. Today in most states it’s relatively easy to get a concealed carry permit. In 2011, Wyoming became the fourth state — joining Alaska, Arizona and Vermont — to allow concealed firearms, no permit needed.

In 35 states, authorities must issue permits to just about any adult who seeks one, with limited exceptions such as a felony. In some states, if local police know that an applicant has made trouble in his neighborhood, has a drinking problem or has been arrested for a string of minor crimes, no matter. If the crime isn’t on a prohibited list, authorities must issue that permit.

All of what they say is pretty much true.  But here’s the whole pictured rendered in two charts:

Concealed carry expansion:

Concealed Carry Expansion

Concealed Carry Expansion 1981-2011

Crime rates:

Crime rates

Crime rates 1981-2010

As I’ve articulated in the past, correlation does not equal causation, but it’s difficult to deny the reality that as concealed carry rights have been expanded over the past two decades across the country, crime (property crime, violent crime, and the homicide rate) has continued to decline.

In short, more guns and an expanding ‘gun culture’ are not creating more crime (including gun-related violent crime).

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