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Monday, December 5, 2016

The Danger Of Rushing To Judgment On George Zimmerman

Everybody wants to see justice done in the Trayvon Martin case, and almost everybody acts as if they already know what that is. Never mind the Rev. Al Sharpton, activist and crusading journalist all in one. Nor his MSNBC colleague Lawrence O’Donnell, who recently announced he’d decided to forgo wearing a hoodie on TV to look more like a prosecutor.

Here’s GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum on “Face the Nation,” assessing shooter George Zimmerman’s mental health. “Someone has a very sick mind who would pursue someone like this,” Santorum said. “This is clearly a heinous act. You know, there are a lot of people who have a lot of distorted views of reality…And my heart goes out to the parents, too. I can’t imagine what they’re suffering, losing their son in such a horrific way. All I would say is that, whatever the motive is, it was a malicious one.”

As an attorney, you’d think Santorum would know better than to bring a legally charged term like malice into it. Not to mention implied psychosis. Santorum subsequently reverted to form, blaming President Obama—one of a few public figures who’ve spoken with appropriate restraint—for bringing race into the equation. This because Obama, extending condolences to the family, acknowledged that “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

Indeed, he would. Images of Trayvon’s handsome, boyish face have played no small part in the public response. Obama also took care, in his capacity as chief executive, not to pre-judge the case. He called it “absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together—federal, state and local—to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.”

In short, the president promised an investigation, not a result. Would that his circumspection were followed by more of those who have justifiably turned Trayvon’s death into a national drama, but who could end up provoking even graver and more socially disruptive tragedies if they’re not more careful.

I say this as one who agrees that had George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin’s roles been reversed, the black kid would almost surely have been arrested. Maybe not convicted, but taken into custody? Definitely. Who thinks that “concealed carry” handgun permits should be damn near impossible to get, and that Florida’s NRA-influenced “stand-your-ground” law, and others like it, were certain to have disastrous results. They must be repealed.

I wouldn’t trust me with a pistol in my pocket, much less you. Untrained individuals like Zimmerman have no business packing heat, nor confronting strangers they deem suspicious. Trouble didn’t come to George Zimmerman; he went looking for it. At minimum, he acted like a damn fool.

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