Sunday, April 22, 2012

Guns, Not Race

Taylor Marsh is a leading liberal/progressive blogger and fervent supporter of Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.        Blogging on Friday about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman episode, Marsh's post received 114 comments.       She contended, in relevant part

If Zimmerman doesn’t pursue, regardless that he was carrying a legally concealed carry weapon in a state where Stand Your Ground is the law, there is no altercation and Trayvon Martin isn’t killed.

Bill Cosby made a statement this week that this isn't about race it's about guns.      It sounds to me like a statement from someone who doesn’t own a firearm. I say this because we do and I’ve had this debate with people who don’t.

Cosby’s statement begs the question, if Trayvon Martin was white, would George Zimmerman have followed him, suspecting something suspicious? Or are people going to once again contend it’s all about the hoodie?

We are oh, so impressed that Marsh (with her husband) owns a firearm.      She gives no particular reason this would give her unique insight into an incident about which there is still less known than unknown.       She does, though, helpfully link to the article to which she refers and in which the legendary comedian

said the national uproar over the killing of teen Trayvon Martin should be over guns, not race.

In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union"  that aired Sunday, Cosby said calling George Zimmerman a racist was pointless.

"What is solved by saying, 'He's a racist, that's why he shot the boy'?" Cosby said.

Since first speaking out about the case earlier this month, Cosby has repeatedly said that the Feb. 26 slaying of the unarmed teen shows there is a need to get guns off the streets.

"When a person has a gun, sometimes their mind clicks, that this thing will win arguments and straighten people out," Cosby told CNN.

"I'm not saying you can't have it in your home to protect yourself... you've got to protect yourself in your own home," he added.

"But I also believe that when you tell me that you are going to protect the neighborhood that I live in, I don't want you to have a gun," he said. "I want you to be able to see something, report it and get out of the way."

Cosby also said during the interview, which was taped on Thursday, that he once owned a gun but no longer does.

In the past two decades, the 74-year-old comedian has become outspoken on issues of violence, parenting, education and drug use in black and minority communities.

His own son, Ennis, was shot dead by a Ukrainian restaurant worker while changing a flat tire on the side of a Los Angeles highway in 1997.

Last week, Cosby told NBC's David Gregory, "When you have a gun, you may not realize it, but you put it on your person and you mean to pull (the trigger) and kill somebody."

Probably, as Marsh maintains, if Trayvon Martin were white, he would not have been followed.      However, even as a young black man who seemed threatening to Zimmerman, Martin would still be alive if Zimmerman had not possessed a firearm.     If the the neighborhood watch monitor had been armed with a knife or some other deadly weapon, Martin very likely would still be alive.

As Zimmerman's actions probably demonstrated, civilians are not police officers, highly trained, accountable, and cognizant of the need to act with discretion.     Cosby understands "when you tell me that you are going to protect the neighborhood that I live in, I don't want you to have a gun.     I want you to be able to see something, report it and get out of the way."

Race, as Cosby realizes, very likely played a role in the killing.      It is difficult to determine from the New York Daily News piece whether he believes Martin was shot primarily because the latter was black or the former is a racist.     But as as Cosby argues, there is little to be gained and nothing to be solved by pinning analysis of the event on the idea that Zimmerman is a racist.

There is, though, much good that can be accomplished by emphasizing the possible role of Florida's Stand Your Ground law and the undeniable role of the possession of a firearm by someone who probably should not have owned a weapon and clearly should not have brought it to the task he undertook that night.

Make no mistake about it:    if George Zimmerman is found guilty of second degree murder (and perhaps if convicted of only manslaughter), the right will have a field day.       Stand Your Ground, they'll boast, did not stand in the way of convicting a killer.     Guns don't kill people, people kill people, they'll say.     Nonetheless, Trayvon Martin would not have been killed if the wrong person hadn't owned the weapon he did.      This trumps any racial motivation, as Bill Cosby understands.      Were it that more on the left saw it as clearly as does he.

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