Will a new open carry law in Oklahoma make it more likely the state will experience an incident like the Trayvon Martin case? Probably.
Martin, of course, is the 17-year-old African American who was killed by 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a watch patrol volunteer in Sanford, Fla. The case has generated widespread protest and media attention, and Zimmerman has now been charged with second-degree murder in the case.
I believe the emerging agreed-upon facts alone warranted charges in the case. Zimmerman reported Martin as “suspicious” to police when, in fact, the teenager was not suspicious. Zimmerman followed him. He was armed with a weapon. He shot and killed Martin, who was unarmed and simply returning to his home. Zimmerman took the initiative when he simply should have relied on police. This type of vigilantism from a neighborhood watch coordinator deserves thorough police and public scrutiny.
There have been allegations of racism (one can speculate on how police would have handled the case if it was a 17-year-old white girl), but the main issue is Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which means citizens can use deadly force to protect themselves. Zimmerman claimed he killed the teenager in self-defense as Martin attacked him, and, at this point, no clear evidence, such as a video, has surfaced to dispute the claim.
But even if Martin did attack Zimmerman, didn’t the teenager also have the right to stand his ground if he felt threatened? That’s the conundrum of “Stand Your Ground.” Once there’s an altercation between people, physical or otherwise, then everyone has the right to defend themselves. If there’s no clear evidence of who instigated the altercation, then you can end up with only one side of the story.
Oklahoma passed its own “Stand Your Ground” law in 2006. It states:
. . . a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
Everyone believes in basic self-defense, but the codification of the “deadly force” language creates a situation in which the government is, under at least some interpretations, actually encouraging altercation and conflict. The push to allow Oklahomans to openly carry weapons is yet another way the government is actually pushing for a violent outcome in any given altercation.
“Stand Your Ground” and open carry don’t take us back to the Wild West, which actually had strict gun control laws, but into a new dystopian world of guns and violence.
What would you do if confronted by an armed man, packing heat in his visible belt holster, on a dark, rainy night in your neighborhood? Would you feel threatened? Most people would. In Oklahoma, the government is encouraging such confrontations through laws that promote gun violence.
What’s coming next from the Second-Amendment crowd? Does anyone really think gun advocates here are going to stop with “Stand Your Ground” and open carry?