Americas Shooting Gallery

Good for him:

President Barack Obama waded into the growing national controversy of the killing of an unarmed black teenager in Florida, saying the nation should do some “soul-searching to figure out how something like this happens.”

“I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together, federal state and local, to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.”

Obama said Trayvon Martin’s death particularly resonated with him as an African-American parent.

“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” Obama said in brief remarks outside the White House.

I can imagine that after the Gates controversy, the administration probably didn’t want to wade into any individual issues like this anymore. But he had to do it and for the reason he cited. It could have been his son. The stories I’ve been reading from African American parents who have to teach their kids “the rules” about how to avoid attracting the “wrong” attention and worry themselves sick about something like this happening are heart breaking. (It shows me my own white privilege that I haven’t been especially tuned into that before.)

We talk about racism all the time, but I think we tend to focus on the wrong thing. This fear of young black men among a certain sub-group of the population runs deep and it’s exploited and manipulated by politicians and groups like the NRA who feed into the stereotypes. These people do not think of themselves as racists — they think being a racist means that you consciously believe racial minorities are inferior. But it isn’t just that, although that’s often a part of it. It’s also this irrational fear of “the other” which some people just can’t or won’t let go of when it comes to African Americans.

But it’s not just racism, although it certainly seems to be a factor in Trayvon Martin’s death and many death across the country. It’s also this insane gun culture, which is killing people every day for no good reason. The NRA has been holding this country hostage for decades now, insisting that the more people carry guns the safer we are. Unfortunately, the people who tend to buy that swill are would-be cops and vigilantes like George Zimmerman.

And the armed good guys who will step up like some sort of Western heroes and gun down the bad guys? Well, this is how it happens in real life. Remember the Gabby Giffords shooting?

“When everyone is carrying a firearm, nobody is going to be a victim,” argues the state’s top pro-gun legislator. Beyond Arizona, at least two members of Congress say they’ll brings guns while traveling their districts.

The new poster boy for this agenda is Joe Zamudio, a hero in the Tucson incident. Zamudio was in a nearby drug store when the shooting began, and he was armed. He ran to the scene and helped subdue the killer. Television interviewers are celebrating his courage, and pro-gun blogs are touting his equipment. “Bystander Says Carrying Gun Prompted Him to Help,” says the headline in the Wall Street Journal.

But before we embrace Zamudio’s brave intervention as proof of the value of being armed, let’s hear the whole story. “I came out of that store, I clicked the safety off, and I was ready,” he explained on Fox and Friends. “I had my hand on my gun. I had it in my jacket pocket here. And I came around the corner like this.” Zamudio demonstrated how his shooting hand was wrapped around the weapon, poised to draw and fire. As he rounded the corner, he saw a man holding a gun. “And that’s who I at first thought was the shooter,” Zamudio recalled. “I told him to ‘Drop it, drop it!’”

But the man with the gun wasn’t the shooter. He had wrested the gun away from the shooter. “Had you shot that guy, it would have been a big, fat mess,” the interviewer pointed out.

Zamudio agreed:

“I was very lucky. Honestly, it was a matter of seconds. Two, maybe three seconds between when I came through the doorway and when I was laying on top of [the real shooter], holding him down. So, I mean, in that short amount of time I made a lot of really big decisions really fast. … I was really lucky.”

That’s the reality. An average citizen got “really lucky” when he didn’t shoot the wrong guy in the midst of a melee. Thanks to the NRA many parts of America are now a shooting gallery where whether you are packing or not, you pretty much have to just duck and hope you don’t get mistaken for a bad guy or caught in the crossfire when the shooting starts. It’s like something out of a bad movie — where most of the dead are young males with dark skin and nobody outside their families even knows their name. Trayvon Martin stands for all of them.

Comments