We first got to know Stephen Hunter when he was the Washington Post’s movie critic. He is best known as a successful novelist, and he happens to know a great deal about guns. This morning Stephen sent us his thoughts on the George Zimmerman verdict:
1.) Profiling. When the president calls for “calm” in the aftermath of the jury speaking, he is profiling. When police departments call in the manpower, put special command units into specific locations, and beef up for potential demonstrations or rioting, they are profiling. When celebs and rap stars use social media to put out irresponsible incantations to bad behavior, they are profiling. They are, in fact, profiling far more invidiously than anything George Zimmerman was accused of.
Their presumption is that the African-American community is immature, impulsive, prone to violence and incapable of understanding the nuances of the case. More volatile and less rational, this community demands special attention in order to nurse it through an emotional crisis, spare it and us from irreparable damage. It is, in fact, based on an us/them dichotomy.
Any individual who argued such a point would be destroyed; these gentlemen and entities may do so without consequence, except an affront to reason and the stench of hypocrisy.
2.) “If the races were reversed . . . ” This game must be played fairly to have any meaning whatsoever. If you want to “reverse the races” you must also reverse the circumstances. Thus a theoretical opposite would be something like this: A short, overweight black 29-year-old male with college experience, bourgeoise aspirations and a history of community involvement spied a teenager lurking in a hoodie in a neighborhood which had had a number or recent burglaries. The teenager turned out to be 4 inches taller than he, if somewhat lighter, an athlete, a Mixed Martial Arts trained fighter, a school suspendee (after suspicion of burglary) and a hispanic gang-banger wannabe. His emails would ultimately reveal the climate of emotional, moral and intellectual poverty in which he lived. After being instructed by police dispatchers not to follow, the black male returned to his truck. He was jumped and sucker-punched by the hispanic youth, jumped on, beaten MMA style and somehow managed to fire on shot with a legally carried weapon, which, supine and injured, he managed nevertheless to remove from a holster under his own bulk. In those circumstances, would the 29-year-old black be indicted in Florida? Not a chance.
3.) The gun worked. It worked perfectly, exactly as it was intended to. The Kel-Tec is a low-end self-defense weapon that has two virtues: light weight and reliability. It has no accuracy to speak of, is so unpleasant to shoot its owners seldom practice with it, is ergonomically like grabbing a chunk of wood wrapped in barb wire and a trigger pull similar to pulling a rake through gravel. It has but one purpose: to go bang when the trigger is pulled in desperate circumstances. Without planning it or knowing it, Trayvon provided the ideal platform for this specialized weapon.
I have written at length about the verdict, so for now will just expand on Stephen’s last point. He is absolutely right about the Kel-Tec. My buddy Mitch Berg has one, and I have shot it a couple of times. It is like hanging on to the end of a fire hose. Yet in this case, it came through in the clutch and did exactly what it was intended to do.
Many have condemned the Trayvon Martin shooting as another instance of “gun violence.” Barack Obama referred to it that way, and in his press briefing today White House spokesman Jay Carney said:
I think the President’s statement reflects his views about the verdict, about the tragic loss of Trayvon Martin, for his family, his community and for the country, the fact that his loss reflects and symbolizes the loss we see daily in this country of young people to gun violence.
But not all “gun violence” is created equal. Some “gun violence” is self-defense, and that is what the jury found here. Trayvon Martin was beating the daylights out of George Zimmerman. He was a bigger guy, and he may well have been a better fighter, as his Twitter feed suggests. Or maybe, as Zimmerman said, it was merely the fact that Trayvon lay in wait and jumped him. Be that as it may, Zimmerman feared for his life. He says that Martin threatened to kill him. So as a last resort, Zimmerman called on his Kel-Tec, and it performed admirably. This isn’t “gun violence,” it is self-defense: the fundamental reason why all Americans have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. When guns are used in self-defense, they should be celebrated, not condemned.