Trayvon Martin -- his shooting has ignited tremendous debate about guns, race, and violence. I think the tragedy is proving, once again, that our country should take a long, solemn look at our differences, our stereotypes, and our laws. We are seeing that many people still believe that violence stops potential violence despite the particular circumstances. Is Florida correct in allowing gun-toting citizens who feel threatened in a public place to "meet force with force," rather than back away? Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is under attack.
Bill Cosby stated the following during an interview on CNN's "State of the Union":
"What is solved by saying, '[Zimmerman] is a racist [and] that's why he shot the boy'?" Cosby asked.
He continued, "This [the gun], and what is he doing with it, and who taught him and told him how to behave with this, it doesn’t make any difference whether he’s racist or not racist. If he’s scared to death, and not a racist, it’s still a confrontational provoking of something.”
"I'm not saying you can't have [a gun] in your home to protect yourself … you've got to protect yourself in your own home. But I also believe that when you tell me that you are going to protect the neighborhood that I live in, I don't want you to have a gun. I want you to be able to see something, report it and get out of the way," Cosby stated.
Cosby said,“When a person has a gun, sometimes their mind clicks that this thing… it will win arguments and straighten people out. And then in the wrong hands, in the wrong mind, it’s death, it’s wounding people. People who don’t have money to buy a decent meal for themselves, yet someone will put an illegal gun in their hand? And we in this country have got to continue to be out there in the streets about the gun.”
"We've got to get the gun out of the hands of people who are supposed to be on neighborhood watch. Without a gun, I don't see Mr. Zimmerman approaching Trayvon by himself," explained the actor. "The 'power-of-the-gun mentality' had him unafraid to confront someone. Even police call for backup in similar situations. When you carry a gun, you mean to harm somebody, kill somebody."
(Sami K. Martin, "Trayvon Martin and Bill Cosby: Guns, Not Race to Blame for Death, Says Cosby," The Christian Post, April 16 2012) and (Josh Feldman, "Bill Cosby Reacts To Trayvon Killing On CNN: ‘What Is Solved By Saying [Zimmerman] Is Racist?’ Mediaite, April 15 2012)
Upon hearing of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, I asked my wife if she would like to see one our our community members armed with gun patrolling our streets at night. She looked me in the eyes and replied, "With a gun? Absolutely not. Are you nuts?" She echoed my feelings exactly.
Considering some of the neighbors who may be armed, we are both more afraid of getting shot by the armed watch patrol than getting robbed or assaulted in our homes by criminals. Visions of early morning firefights with bullets spraying the street come to my head. I don't want to live in a potential free-fire war zone. And, I didn't want that insane "old West" mentality to get any worse either.
Now, I understand that my neighborhood may not resemble George Zimmerman's community; however, I am not in favor of citizens patrolling with guns. Neighborhood Watch -- that says it all to me. The purpose of putting Zimmerman on the street was to watch for suspected criminal behavior, not to chase, fight, or shoot an alleged suspect.
My son went through training at the Ohio State Patrol Academy, and I can testify that the course is extremely intense. He was placed under every kind of stress and strain imaginable in order to prepare him to deal with those who break the law. The patrol are trained to become masters of restraint, and they are as versed in every proper procedure to follow under every conceivable criminal circumstance. They draw their weapon as a last resort. And, when they do use a weapon, they take deadly force.
I do not want someone using a gun protecting my home. As owner of my property, any deadly force I take will be deemed necessary by me, not by a neighbor. I believe in the Neighborhood Watch program as a means of defense, but not as a means of confrontation or as an offensive strategy.
Neighborhood Watch, started 40 years ago by the National Sheriffs’ Association, numbers 22,000 watch groups nationally. In crime watch programs around the nation, citizen volunteers are trained to be on the lookout for criminal or suspicious activity in the areas around their homes and businesses, and then report it to law enforcement. Neighborhood watch programs are about building community as well as helping ensure public safety, a way of enlisting ordinary citizens to be “eyes and ears’’ for law enforcement -- not armed enforcers.
Going-on 18 years John Bartholomew has been a Neighborhood Watch captain in White Bear Township, Minnesota.“If there was a problem and I needed to look at night, I’d carry a flashlight and a cell phone with speed dial to the sheriff’s office. You never intervene. You never confront,’’ says Bartholomew, 63. (Cynthia Boyd, "Trayvon Martin Case Puts Focus on Citizen Crime-Prevention Programs," Minnesota Post, April 12 2012)
“He was, in my estimation, stepping out of bounds with what he did,’’ says Bartholomew about George Zimmerman, who shot and killed unarmed Trayvon Martin.