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Gun owners debate Trayvon Martin shooting online

This news story was published on March 29, 2012.
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By Henry Pierson Curtis, The Orlando Sentinel –

ORLANDO, Fla. — In the roiling national debate over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, one group has been conspicuously quiet: gun owners.

The National Rifle Association has not issued a statement, despite growing criticism of its part in advocating for legislation such as Florida’s “stand your ground” law — which has come under increasing fire in the wake of the unarmed teen’s shooting by Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

But online, proponents of carrying concealed weapons are participating in forums that reflect their concerns over the touchy subjects of race, gun laws and the need for facts in the most controversial shooting in recent memory.

Beginning with a single post March 17, gun owners from across the country responded to a member’s question on the USA Carry website about the Florida killing.

“My question is would the shooting have happened if the so-called black perp was white and, if so, do you think the shooting was justified?” asked Bounty Hunter, a fugitive-recovery agent from Utah in the thread’s opening post. “I just notice that there are more incidents where young black men are being targeted for violence just because they are black.”

The 230-plus responses, which overwhelmingly criticized Zimmerman, came from shooting instructors, members of the NRA and others with online nicknames including CapGun, Deer Hunter and Old Grunt.

“Self-defense claims are pretty weak when you purposely put yourself into harm’s way,” wrote Purple, who identified himself as an NRA Life Member from Washington state. “In this case not only did he do that, but having fear of someone’s potential is not justification for pulling a gun and then the trigger.”

Through midday Monday on the forum’s 10th day, 42 of the 62 people posting comments faulted Zimmerman, 12 waited for more information and eight did not express their views. Those views began changing that day, after the Orlando Sentinel released the first details of Zimmerman’s self-defense claims to police.

The early responses focused on the few facts known about the shooting, which happened shortly after 7:15 p.m. Feb. 26 in the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community in Sanford. They were based mostly on recordings of telephone calls to police, an incomplete incident report released by Sanford police and news coverage of Zimmerman’s volunteer role as a Neighborhood Watch captain.

Suspicious of media accounts, USA Carry members did their own online research — including looking into guidelines for Neighborhood Watch groups — and discussed when shooting is valid.

Many faulted Zimmerman for confronting Trayvon as the 17-year-old visitor from South Florida walked toward the home of his father’s fiancee inside the gated community. And they wrote that Zimmerman should have stopped following him after calling police to report a “suspicious” male and was told by a dispatcher that police were on the way and he needn’t follow anymore. Shortly after the call, residents heard a struggle and a single gunshot.

“I’m a Florida deputy in a neighboring county. Zimmerman is guilty of 1st-degree manslaughter at a minimum. I personally feel like this was an outright homicide!” wrote vkent718. “I feel for Trayvon’s family.”

At some points, the thread morphed into whether a grand jury would find evidence to contradict the self-defense claim.

“Do I think Zimmerman was right? No. But stupidity is not against the law, sorry. To believe that it could not be a legitimate ‘stand your ground’ ruling is INSANE,” wrote Bttbbob of Palm Beach, a shooting instructor since 1976. “So far all the information that is available, ZIMMERMAN is a tool and guilty of being an idiot.”

The most prolific writer, SGB of Tallahassee, posted more than 30 comments challenging assumptions by other USA Carry members who criticized Zimmerman.

“Well, you’re long on conjecture but it appears you’re short on FACTS as well as knowledge of Florida law,” he wrote. “But, hey, that’s the trade mark of the lynch mob mentality, please carry on with your persecution.”

The impact Trayvon’s death may have on Florida’s “stand your ground” law was discussed widely.

“Perhaps more evidence will surface … but at this point he seems a bad example of responsible carry and a higher standard of care,” commented The Dark, a Florida resident. “Those of us in Florida are now having to watch anti-gun and anti-stand-your-(ground) attempt to use this against us, a matter that is not expected.”

Concern centered on how the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence would use Trayvon’s death to try to restrict gun ownership and quash efforts to allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the U.S.

Of Trayvon’s death, the Brady Center wrote, “It is not a surprise that it happened in Florida, the NRA’s closest thing to an armed utopia. In fact … George Zimmerman is the embodiment of the gun lobby and its vision for America.”

Former NRA President Marion Hammer, a lobbyist credited with assuring that Florida legislators passed “stand your ground” in 2005, declined to predict whether the law will face a challenge in the next Legislature.

“There’s nothing wrong with the law. Putting the law on trial is a mistake,” Hammer told a (Fort Lauderdale) Sun Sentinel reporter. “It’s just wrong. There’s nothing wrong with the law.”

The tone of the forum changed Monday after the Orlando Sentinel disclosed the first details of Zimmerman’s account to police of the shooting. In more than 30 posts since then, members of the thread previously critical of Zimmerman backed off.

“I was one who jumped to conclusions,” wrote Danmc from Idaho in the first post after the new information. “I must confess that I am going to have to recant my vigilante frame of mind towards Zimmerman and wait for ALL THE FACTS to come out.”

The information came from Zimmerman’s interviews and re-enactments with Sanford police, based on information from law-enforcement sources.

Zimmerman told police he was walking to his SUV when the teen came from behind, punched him in the nose, knocked him to the ground and began striking his head against a sidewalk. Saying he first called for help, Zimmerman told police he shot Trayvon in self-defense.

No independent eyewitness account exists of how the fight Zimmerman described began.

BC1, a shooting instructor from New York, summed up many posters’ thoughts:

“So what can we learn from this incident?” he wrote Tuesday. “Posters need to understand that in the event they use a gun in self-defense, whether they are right or wrong it will probably ruin their life. I learned this long ago from (self-defense instructor and author) Mas Ayoob.

“This case is an opportunity for people to understand what happens when they use deadly force.”

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19 Responses to Gun owners debate Trayvon Martin shooting online

  1. Observer Reply Report comment

    March 30, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Now I have two strikes against me. I am from Chicago, and I have been wearing hooded sweatshirts since 1975 (they wore them in Track and Field).

    Is the next bullet for me? ☺

  2. Observer Reply Report comment

    March 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    “It is now coming out that the kid assulted him by hitting him in the face and punding his head on the cement.”

    I heard this on the BBC this evening: “”Speaking to local TV, Robert Zimmerman said Martin broke his son’s nose and cut the back of his head.”

    It’s my understanding that Trayvon Martin got on top of him and just started beating him,” Robert Zimmerman said”.”

    Is that right? Then explain this video on the BBC:

    Yup, not a scratch, no blood, and no broken nose. The video was shot at the Sanford Police station by their CCTV.

  3. common sense Reply Report comment

    March 29, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    The kid was minding his own business walking down a public street. The kid was scared of Zimmerman and stood his ground if he had shot and killed him would that be ok?

  4. Observer Reply Report comment

    March 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    This is a pile of dung. Someone took a boys life, without reason. I don’t care about the hype, nor the Reverend’s puffery.

    I care about a human life, what he was, makes no difference. A person pursued what he thought to be a bad person, and killed him. He had no real basis for that reasoning (as far as we know). No weapon was found on, or near the boy (unless those Skittles were actually bombletts). The man over-reacted, and we have a dead person.

    Look at yourselves, and think how cheap you treat life, talking about race and this and that.

    I was wearing hoodies before most of you were born. It means nothing (other than I like keeping the wind off the back of my neck)!

    Skip all the nonsensical talk, and focus on why a boy is dead.

  5. Larry Reply Report comment

    March 29, 2012 at 9:56 am

    I will just say this. If it was a white kid that was shot you would probably never have heard about it. It is being blown up by the rabble rousers who make a living off racial conflict. You know the Rev. Al Shapton and Rev. Jess Jackson. They live off promoting hate in the name od equality. If you really want racial equality quit calling people black or white or asian or hispanic (God i hate the word hispanic). It is now coming out that the kid assulted him by hitting him in the face and punding his head on the cement. Now, it does become self-defense. These guys walk around trying to intimidate people and he got shot for it. He was a stranger in a gated community and didn’t have the sense to say what he was doing there. He just attacked and got shot for it. I feel bad for Zimmerman.

    • Dave Reply Report comment

      March 29, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      you need to get your facts straight. If it would have been a white boy Zimmerman would have been in jail the same night he shot him. The kid had a very good reason to be in that neighborhood and if he did attack Zimmerman (which I don’t believe he did) it was because he was being followed and stalked by a wierdo. Your comments are so racist and scarry. People that think like you are the reason people like me want guns banned. I have never owned a gun and in my 60 years of life there has never been a time when I have felt threatened enough to think that I needed a gun. I am smart enough to stay out of those situations.

      • Larry Reply Report comment

        March 30, 2012 at 9:04 am

        No you are not that smart. Look at what you are doing right now.

      • Larry Reply Report comment

        March 30, 2012 at 10:41 am

        I am one hell of a long way from being a racist. However, I am a realist and not a liberal who always thinks the blacks are innocent and abused. They bring on most of the stuff themselves. If you had been where I have been you would have your eyes opened wide or you would have been dead. People who live in Mason City all of their lives have no business having a opinion on issues like this. You have liuved a sheltered, pampered life here in North Iowa cupcake.

      • Katie Reply Report comment

        March 30, 2012 at 11:44 am

        If you look at the video of Zimmerman and pause it as he goes through the building, you can see a dark spot just below the crown of his head. The picture is very grainy, but at the very least, it looks like a bruise. It’s wrong that the police didn’t take him to the hospital for an exam. They will regret that decision.

      • Observer Reply Report comment

        March 30, 2012 at 6:58 pm

        The longer video gave more opportunities to compare. I still see nothing.,0,6403058.story

  6. ban all guns immediately Reply Report comment

    March 29, 2012 at 9:51 am

    This is simply more evidence that guns owners are barbarians. I truly hope our government at every level bans the use of all guns and firearms by everyone except the police and military. It would save countless lives. Thank you.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      March 29, 2012 at 10:03 am

      YOU’RE GOOFY!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Little Bill Reply Report comment

      March 29, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      1/10 for getting me to reply

      Jimmies status: unrustled.

    • Larry Reply Report comment

      March 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      What a idiot. All that would do is make you easy pickings for the bully’s. What world do you live in. If it wasn’t a gun it would be a knife or baseball bat. How stupid can you get.

      • wow Reply Report comment

        March 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm

        If you need a gun to deal with a bully, YOU might be the idiot.

    • Patriot Reply Report comment

      March 29, 2012 at 4:07 pm

      So make us all victims? You can take the guns away from law abiding citizens and only the criminals will have them. They obviously don’t care about the law.

      I hope someday you will gain a bit of common sense.

  7. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 29, 2012 at 9:12 am

    he was a punk ass kid! another welfare case??!!!

    • Larry Reply Report comment

      March 29, 2012 at 3:50 pm

      I have a gun. As a matter of fact I have several but I don’t need them to protect myself from a bully behind a keyboard like you. However, if you would like a head start I bet I can hit you with the 1st bullet.

  8. confused Reply Report comment

    March 29, 2012 at 7:42 am

    So you would rather have the NRA do what just about everyone else is doing, offer opinions without ANY real facts available. The NRA is doing what responsible reporters, legislators, and citizens should be doing, waiting until we know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth on this case.