The Chronicle editorial staff wrote an interesting article about two alleged incidents of Neighborhood Watch members gone bad (“Respect Neighborhood Watch,” May 3), the most widely known of which, of course, is the shooting death of 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin at the hands of Sanford, Florida’s half Hispanic, half white George Zimmerman.
The Chronicle does not focus on the key in the Zimmerman case, the fact that the individual who pursued Martin had a gun. I have no doubt that the first question of Neighborhood Watch members throughout the nation upon learning of this tragedy was, “What the devil was he doing with a gun? That is not how Neighborhood Watch operates!” Gun fanaticism primarily infests rural areas and results in legislation such as Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which enables an individual, with no duty to retreat, to evade punishment if they reasonably believed that they were in danger and proceed to kill or wound someone with a firearm.
If George Zimmerman was not carrying a loaded weapon on a fateful night, it is likely that neither he nor Trayvon Martin would have perished. His gun, the friendly political climate to guns, and his position as watchman over a neighborhood likely caused Zimmerman to feel empowered. The area he was patrolling had been beset by robberies at the hands of young African-American men, and Zimmerman came upon a young African-American man whom he found to be suspicious, pursuing him against the advice of a police dispatcher. Precisely what happened after that, we do not yet know, and may never know.
Without regard to whether George Zimmerman is found guilty of a crime, he has already received a life sentence from those who immediately came to despise him, some of whom put a bounty on his head. In a real sense, the intersected lives of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman have come to an end. It is a tragedy for the Martin and Zimmerman families and it did not have to happen.
As is the case at so many crime scenes, the invisible hand of the National Rifle Association may be present in this sad saga.