If the shooter in the recent Tampa movie theater incident successfully invokes Stand Your Ground as a defense against a flying bag of popcorn, this could finally be the case that forces the Florida Legislature to reconsider its fealty to the gun lobby.
Currently, Tallahassee’s position on SYG is “not to change one damn comma,” but one factor might dampen their powder a bit.
Geezers old enough to remember the 1960s will recall the wave of panic that swept the country concerning drug usage among our nation’s youth. Demon weed and other mind-rotting substances were invading the leafy neighborhoods of Beaver Cleaver and the Nelson boys, and politicians began hyperventilating about a crisis and speaking of the need for a “war on drugs.”
Actually, there was no new crisis, comparatively speaking. What had happened was that drug use, which had been largely confined to minorities and the counterculture, had become fashionable among middle-class white kids, and suddenly the nation was galloping down the road to perdition. It was a perception thing. It’s always a perception thing.
Likewise with Stand Your Ground. Even though SYG wasn’t invoked in the Zimmerman defense, it delineated the pathway by which Americans came to their personal conclusions about his guilt or innocence in the killing of Trayvon Martin — jury verdict be damned.
Protestors spent many weeks camped out at Gov. Rick Scott’s office to demand changes in the law, but the governor and Legislature never felt enough political pressure to act.
Why? Because to many, Trayvon Martin’s death wasn’t immediately relevant to their lives. He was a black kid at night, wearing a hoodie — yeah, unfortunate stuff can happen. It’s just the way things are in today’s America. It was shocking, terrible. Tut, tut.
Now, however, we have a highly publicized case in which a young white man was enjoying a day at the movies with his wife, and got hassled by a retired cop who didn’t like him texting during the movie previews. Words were exchanged, a bag of popcorn was thrown, and suddenly somebody was dead of a gunshot wound. Whoa, hold on a minute! That poor guy could have been anybody, even me!
Absent an actual member of a legislator’s family getting shot and the perp invoking SYG, this could be the most significant development yet in the battle to roll back Florida’s insane firearms laws. This time, average constituents may feel vulnerable. After all, most of us text, and probably during movie previews.
It’s tragic that this incident may finally be what it takes to get the public engaged. We’ve reached the point, though, where only tragedies can effectively slap the Legislature upside the head.
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