Zimmerman Trial: It’s Not About Race, It’s About Gun Laws (Which Are Racist) [Op-Ed]

COMMENTARY — The Zimmerman trial has gotten a great deal of attention. The “not guilty” verdict has upset many. Much of that has been centered on the racial aspect of the case.

While that is not an inaccurate assessment, there’s more going on here. In reality, the focus of the case dealt with controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws, which, as The Society Pages points out, increases an already troubling pattern of racial bias in the US criminal justice system.

Whereas the Zimmerman trial was less of an examination into whether George Zimmerman had acted in a criminal way as to whether he had acted within his legal rights. These rights, then, were protected under Stand Your Ground.

Stand Your Ground laws, which Zimmerman was well versed in, allow an individual to not suffer legal repercussions if he or she kills a deadly threat. This has been called “justifiable homicide” — a questionable concept in itself.

Had these laws not existed, Zimmerman would likely not have been carrying a firearm in the first place, playing wanna-be cop. He also would not have felt confident that he could confront and kill a minor, and get away with it. In fact, it’s arguable there would have been no interaction between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman had he not had SYG to back him up.

It’s not just that, however. Stand Your Ground, though it might sound reasonable to some, on paper, it is, in reality, a legal gray area. The ruling in this case, however, sets a precedent: An unarmed child can be legally shot and killed.

Or, at least, a black child. It is already well established that jurors across the US tend to have a racial bias. This is especially true in questionable murder cases, where statistics show that whites who kill blacks are much more likely to be found not guilty than in the reverse scenario.

This is even more true in cases that involve Stand Your Ground, which only widens the existing racial bias gap in our legal system. Don’t believe it? Just look at how a Florida mom, a black woman, was recently sentenced to twenty years in prison for firing warning shots at her abusive husband. But tonight Zimmerman will be back on the streets, with his gun, “protecting” his neighborhood from black children.

While it is understandable to direct anger and disappointment at the actors in the Zimmerman trial, it is a symptom of laws that allow for easy access to and use of deadly force: firearms.

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