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‘Stand your ground’ argument ignores the important point

In response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal, many, including Eric Holder and The News’ editorial board, are calling for a prompt review of “stand your ground” laws. These statutes allow for the use of force when a person feels under threat but carry little, if any, obligation to attempt to avoid conflict.

This reaction is disappointingly narrow. Implicit in the focus to “stand your ground” is the notion that the gun strapped to Zimmerman’s waist is an unquestionable right. Zimmerman’s lawful possession of a firearm that night turned a fight into a shooting death. Subsequently, the prosecutors had to refute all reasonable scenarios of self-defense to prove Zimmerman used the gun unlawfully, as its possession was not criminal.

Illegal possession of a firearm would not be adequate punishment for Zimmerman’s mistakes, but it would be something certain for a case that could only achieve justice in spite of the law. Some may attribute Martin’s death to poor decisions by both him and Zimmerman that night and Zimmerman’s gun possession as the disastrous factor in the case, but one guaranteed constitutionally.

An individual right to arms requires a definitive reading of an amendment for which no clear reading exists. This distortion too routinely causes the disproportionate trade of rights to not be shot for rights to own and carry guns. When tragedy too often occurs, politicians preface their statements with some affinity to shooting and/or hunting and claim only guns in the wrong hands are the problem and the proper mix of law, regulation and mental health care is the answer. What I and many Americans would get behind are lawmakers and courts courageous enough to call reset to an individual right to guns. In the meantime, forgive us if we leave our notebooks at home while this “national conversation” continues.

Matthew F. Burke

Buffalo