Why the Violence?

I debated whether I wanted to write about the George Zimmerman verdict because I tend to distance myself from media-created, fanatical events. However, my heart breaks at the amount of violence that is erupting due to the verdict. I guess you could say that I cannot stay silent.

It is most unfortunate that an unarmed 17-year old boy died at the hands of a possibly over-zealous neighborhood watchman, who happened to be of a different ethnicity.  This tragedy is compounded by the fact that a gun was used against this unarmed boy, and that the neighborhood watchman’s motivations for using the weapon may have been racially charged. But that is it, my friends; all of this is speculation. The burden of proof in a case like this is on the State. The State must prove that Zimmerman committed murder and not just protected himself against the violent advances of another. The State must prove that Zimmerman was not in fear for his life, and therefore used his weapon in an act of rage or aggression as opposed to self-defense.

In fear for his life.

That is the standard by which we determine an act to be self-defense as opposed to manslaughter or murder. There must be a reasonable threat of violence and you must be in fear for your life.

I had a long talk with a law enforcement officer shortly after I obtained my concealed carry license and right before I was seriously considering purchasing a weapon of my own. I asked the man what constitutes self-defense, because it is all so vague. He agreed that yes, it is vague. It is hard to distinguish between murder in the second degree or manslaughter, and simple self-defense.  As a woman, I have the tiny benefit that oftentimes a gun is all I have to give myself any sort of “power” over an aggressive man. But does that mean I shoot him? In our concealed carry class we learned, “shoot to kill.” If you feel as though your life is being threatened, you do not shoot to hurt, you shoot to kill.

So what does that mean for George Zimmerman? Did he take a similar class? He was interested in law enforcement, so I’m sure that he had some kind of training, as minor as it may have been. In a moment of fearing for his life, did he do what he knew to do: shoot to kill?

Perhaps we will never know. I’m sure there will be countless books, movies, and cable news discussions that will replay this case over and over. The riots may continue, sadly. People will cry racism and beg for stricter gun laws. But they are all missing the point. What they are protesting is the outcome of the trial. But you should not be protesting a system that works. The jury found Zimmerman not guilty because the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this man committed a crime. Let me say it again: The State could not prove without a reasonable doubt that this man committed a crime.

Regardless of if he actually did commit a crime or not, we have an edict in our legal system that is something along the lines of: it is better for 100 guilty men to walk free than one innocent man be punished for a crime he did not commit. Now you legal scholars can correct the wording for me, but I believe the intent is the same.  In this case, perhaps we have a guilty man walking free, but you have to understand that you cannot lock a man away if there is reasonable doubt in his guilt. Zimmerman was a victim of a lynch mob in the media and on the streets. However, the system, this jury, did its job.  You cannot fault them for that.

So again, I ask, “Why the violence?” Why are there some who are fighting violence with violence; hate with hate; racism with racism? This is not a time for fighting, nor is it a time for celebrating. If anything, this particular case proves that we still have a justice system that favors the defendant. And in the name of liberty, that is a good thing.

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