Trayvon Martin shooting: a turning point in gun rights debate?
For years, gun laws had grown less restrictive. But some gun rights advocacy has been curtailed after the Trayvon Martin shooting, which has provided ammunition for gun control groups.
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Zimmerman, who has a concealed weapons permit even though he'd once been charged, though not convicted, of assault on a police officer, has claimed that he acted in self-defense, and police originally let him go, finding no probable cause to arrest him. Last week, a Jacksonville prosecutor appointed by Governor Scott filed an arrest warrant against Zimmerman for second-degree murder charges. Zimmerman will have a chance to plead self-defense under Stand Your Ground to a judge before any jury trial happens.Skip to next paragraph
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Last week, Michael Yaki, a member of the US Civil Rights Commission, said he would ask the federal agency to investigate the Stand Your Ground law, ostensibly to identify whether there is a racial dimension to how it's applied.
And on the legislative front, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a 40-year-old conservative advocacy group that supplies legislators with ready-written legislation, announced that, because of pressure from corporations that support its operations, it’s disbanding its Public Safety and Elections taskforce, which supplied states like Florida with its Stand Your Ground law.
ALEC’s decision to end their gun rights advocacy “may be the most important thing politically in terms of legislative effect” in the aftermath of the Trayvon shooting, says Professor Cook at Duke.
Gun control advocacy groups say the Trayvon shooting has given a lot of Americans pause about the expansion of concealed-carry rights – as many as 10 million Americans now have concealed carry permits, compared to a few hundred thousand a decade ago – and about the growing numbers of places where Americans can carry guns, including, in some states, restaurants, statehouses, even city parks.
“Possibly the determining issue here is that now a lot of people who have felt they’re not affected by gun violence or [looser gun laws] recognize that, ‘This could have been my kid,’ and they’re seeing the effects of these laws in the real world, and I think that’s something that’s different from past high-profile incidents,” says Josh Sugarman, founder and executive director of the Violence Policy Center in Washington, which advocates for stricter gun laws and more complete and accurate gun-tracking data.
“The fact is that the exact scenarios that [gun rights] advocacy groups said would never happen do happen – that concealed carry handgun holders do kill and not just in self-defense situations, but in road rage, domestic shootings, arguments, and bar fights.”
Gun rights groups, meanwhile, say they believe gun rights, including the concealed carry reciprocity law, will continue to expand, in part because they believe the justice system will find that Zimmerman had the right to defend himself the night he shot Trayvon. They also contend that a plurality of Americans ultimately understand that laws like concealed carry and Stand Your Ground act as deterrents to crime.
“If Gov. Rick Scott wants to know the effect of these laws, he’ll find out that they’ve resulted in a 16 percent reduction in Florida’s homicide rate,” says Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, in Virginia. “You’ve got a real dilemma if you’re on the anti-armed self-defense side, that [you believe] the people are so stupid they keep voting for this stuff.”
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