This is in response to the opinion column titled “Self-defense has unofficial racial exceptions.” The writer passionately makes a case that race is or was being used as an exception to laws in the State of Florida regarding self-defense. The primary question in my mind is not about race, but why was George Zimmerman carrying a firearm acting as his neighborhood watch captain? I am not aware of a law in the State of Florida that allows a neighborhood watch captain to carry a firearm in the pursuit of his volunteer duties. I will grant the premise that Mr. Zimmerman’s intentions were good, but Mr. Zimmerman is not a sworn law enforcement officer and does not possess the training necessary to make life and death decisions in pursuit of his duties.
This is why the dispatcher told him that following and chasing Trayvon Martin was not necessary. Zimmerman took it upon himself to follow and confront Mr. Martin and a tragedy occurred, not just for the family of Trayvon Martin, but for George Zimmerman. If a case for self-defense can be made for George Zimmerman, why not make a case for self-defense for Mr. Martin, who was being followed by an armed man with no legal authority to police his neighborhood?
Neighborhood watch organizations are a boon to law enforcement: they provide a group of people who watch and report crime in their area. The purpose of a neighborhood watch is not to actively patrol the neighborhood like guardian angels, but to watch, report and assist law enforcement in protecting their neighborhood. Mr. Zimmerman has now learned a painful lesson: carrying a firearm is a tremendous responsibility; it is one that should never be taken lightly. The simple licensing to carry a concealed firearm does not provide the level of training a sworn law officer must possess in order to carry and potentially use a firearm in the course of their duties.
The question for investigators now is, was the shooting of Mr. Martin necessary? The pursuit of Mr. Martin and his tragic, senseless death by a man who simply should have reported his suspicions and let a professional police officer handle the investigation raises an even more important question about how we interpret Second Amendment rights and responsibilities in the United States.
Ultimately, George Zimmerman was an untrained citizen acting in a position of authority without the commensurate level of training and responsibility that was sorely needed. It resulted in a death that will haunt him and Trayvon Martin’s family for the rest of their lives.