Editorial: A fear-mongering ‘safety’ device renews its partnership with death

Greg Parlier

(Illustration by Joey Taravella)

Protests are spreading around the country at city halls and state capitol buildings, including numerous student groups, demanding the arrest of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Every day, a new story surfaces with a different account of the deadly shooting, but the end result is the same: Another young person is dead by gunshot.

The exact details of that late February evening are still unclear, and we may never know what exactly happened between the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain and the 17-year-old boy who was headed to his father’s fiancee’s home armed with candy and tea.

With the case still developing, it is hard for anyone to confidently lay the blame on one person in this incident, even though the evidence seems to be stacked against Zimmerman. But there is no question that once again, the presence of a firearm in this confrontation increased the extremity of the situation.

Even if, in the most violent of scenarios, Zimmerman’s claim that Martin attacked him first is true, it is unlikely the teen, hopped up on Skittles, went on a streak so savage that he could have put the larger, 28-year-old Zimmerman’s life in serious danger. Even in this most likely exaggerated version of the story, we may have only had a couple of black eyes or broken teeth to talk about.

It is much more likely that Zimmerman, for whatever reason, race related or not, channeled a surge of power through his gun, and with his post as chief protector of the neighborhood, took care of what he saw in one second as a dangerous situation with the flick of his finger. Boom. Another kid dies for no reason.

Zimmerman’s attorneys can make the case that Martin appeared dangerous or that his pot smoking past made him a thug, but nothing they can come up with justifies death. Not even close.

This comes on the heels of a school shooting right here in Jacksonville, in which a fired teacher returned to school with an AK-47 to kill his former boss and himself. Shane Schumerth was fired from his post as a Spanish teacher, ran home for his assault rifle and returned with vengeance on his mind.

It’s impossible to say what Schumerth would have done if he didn’t have access to his firearm, but it’s certain he would have taken fewer lives and caused less trauma to an unexpecting student body.

These are just two recent examples of guns used in situations in which they were not necessary. Yet organizations across the country continue to push for decreased regulation and increased accessibility of firearms.

In October, Florida Carry and UNF student Alexandria Lainez filed a lawsuit against the university, arguing that she should have the right to carry a gun in UNF parking lots, for protection. In November, they filed a temporary injunction in an attempt to allow licensed gun owners to carry in UNF parking lots. The decision is still pending.

Meanwhile, the Police Beat section of the Spinnaker is increasingly marred with gun-related crime. A victim was robbed at gunpoint with a long-barrelled black handgun in the University Center parking lot March 6, according to a police report.

A suspect in a red car attempted to rob a man at gunpoint on UNF Drive Feb. 9, according to another police report.

Adding another gun to either of these situations, as proponents of gun freedom would suggest, would not decrease the violent nature of the situation. A higher potentiality of violence does not equal a safer campus, even if a shooting is temporarily avoided from time to time.

How would you like it if the next time a car came roaring around the bend of the Fine Arts Parking Garage, nearly evacuating your bowels for you, that car also had a rifle strapped across the back window?

It’s doubtful this would exude a sense of safety around campus.

As guns continue to litter news and metro sections across the country, occasionally surfacing on the national news scene in depressing descriptions of another innocent death, the ideological war over the place of firearms in American society rages on.

Yes, the Second Amendment protects our right to bear arms. But there may be a point at which a need for safety eclipses that desire for freedom.

We can take the increase in high profile gun deaths of late as a sign that maybe we should reserve this little pocket of society, a state university campus, free of guns. Or, we can continue the fight for on-campus access to deadly weapons that at best scares and, at worst, kills.

May Trayvon Martin and Dale Regan rest in peace.

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