Obama: ‘If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.’

On a previous post, Phillip said that he likes Bill Maher (or at least excuses him) because “I find myself agreeing with him about 99% of the time.” I made it fairly clear that I do not.

But there are people who I find myself agreeing with to a degree that it is remarkable — a rare experience for me, since I reject the orthodoxies of left and right (which enable the people who do adhere to them to find themselves agreeing with certain people a lot). A good example would be Tony Blair. When he expresses his reasoning behind a position, I am struck by how much it is just like what I would say — or wish I were clever enough to say.

I have a similar experience with President Obama. There are a lot of things I disagree with him on, rather vehemently in some cases. But then he expresses himself on an issue in a way that strikes me as just right, and I am deeply impressed. (Needless to say, on these occasions he’s being about as different from Bill Maher as any one person can be.)

Today was such an instance, when the president carefully weighed in on the Trayvon Martin tragedy. I haven’t commented on it myself because I have thought that everyone else was commenting in such a facile manner — generalizing the incident to fit their own political and social predilections — and I couldn’t find a way to grab ahold of the matter in a way I found meaningful.

But then the president said this:

“I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this,” Mr. Obama said. “All of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen.”…

“Obviously, this is a tragedy. I can only imagine what these parents are going through,” Mr. Obama said, his face grim. “When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.”…

“You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” Mr. Obama said, pausing for a moment. “I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”

Normally, I tend to react against such a personal, emotional response. But in this case, it was exactly right, and the president was wise to recognize it.

To me, this isn’t some microcosm of racial injustice or gun culture gone wild or any other generalization. This is a case — as near as I can tell, and my knowledge of the case is limited — of a confused, emotional, panicky, cowardly man with a gun in his hand pulling the trigger and causing a deep, personal, specific tragedy.

Yes, the president made a genetic, racial observation in saying that his theoretical son would look like the victim in this case. But the more important part of it is that he appeals to “every parent in America” to look at this situation AS parents, rather than as participants in a political debate. It says to whites who may want to recoil and get indignant at seeing, for instance, Al Sharpton exploit yet another tragedy, Set that aside. Look at the personal tragedy. Think of your own kids. That’s what I’m doing.

That’s the wisest possible thing he could have said.

If there’s anything else useful to say about this case, that is the best starting point.

127 thoughts on “Obama: ‘If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.’

  1. Silence

    This case is certainly a tragedy. Mr. Zimmerman does seem like a weirdo-vigilante, maybe with some assistance from the media spotlight. I hope that Mr. Martin’s senseless death will not be exploited by some on the left to deprive ordinary and law-abiding citizens of the right or ability to defend themselves.

  2. Doug Ross

    Hmmm… I read Obama’s quote and I was left with the impression that he said nothing. Typical political speak. When he says “we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened” what does that mean? Is he going to allocate federal resources to investigate this matter? What makes this case such a big deal compared to any other number of murders?

    I’d rather see him talk more about the solider who killed 17 innocent people. Are we going to get to the bottom of that one too?

  3. Brad

    Doug, there’s nothing the president needs to say about the soldier who went nuts and killed all those people. That case is proceeding along exactly as it should.

  4. Steven Davis II

    The media has already tried and convicted Zimmerman. Yet there’s very little being said about the possibility of the can of tea being thrown at his head, the grass stains on his back and the injury to the back of his head. I read somewhere where Trayvon’s father didn’t recognize the screaming voice in the 911 tape as the voice of his son. Zimmerman states that it is he who is screaming for help.

    Also, why do they keep showing pictures of Trayvon where he looks like a 10 year old kid? The guy is 17 years old, 6’2″ tall.

  5. Steven Davis II

    Actually what I meant to say was that they’re talking about the can of tea inside the bag being swung at Zimmerman’s face causing the injury to his face… not actually being thrown at his face.

  6. Doug Ross

    Yeah, because if he talked about the soldier, he’d have to talk about why we are still there doing more harm than good. Better to jump on the hot topic bandwagon, not say anything that means anything, and reap the political benefits.

    The Florida case is not a federal issue.

    You are naive if you don’t think his response was packaged by his handlers. Say all the right things but don’t really say anything. He doesn’t dare bring up the racial aspect of the case. When he speaks of “every parent”, he’s not speaking about me.

    In the NYT times article you linked to, immediately following the quote it says “Mr. Obama sidestepped some of the most sensitive and politically charged specifics about the case — whether Mr. Zimmerman should be arrested; whether the Stand Your Ground law goes too far in protecting people who shoot others; whether the police chief in Sanford, where the shooting took place, should be fired.”

    Exactly – Florida is a MUST WIN state in November. Every word must be considered before speaking.

  7. Mark Stewart


    Nobody would ever call me a leftist, yet I find the idea that a self-appointed protector of a neighborhood could follow someone, shoot them in the open and then have the police assume that “stand your ground” is somehow applicable. Put the racial aspect aside for a moment; how can anyone not see that this is in no way a case of self-defense? When does anyone ever have the right to pick a fight and then use deadly force out of “fear” of the consequences?

    The idea of a reasonable standard, the right of self defense, has apparently been perverted beyond all rational analysis. We cannot, as a society, permit people to resort to gunfire on a whim to “resolve” percieved disputes. We need to clarify, and circumscribe, the right of self defense so that it does not include this sort of behavior, lest neighborly “hedge wars” turn into firefights.

  8. bud

    I hope that Mr. Martin’s senseless death will not be exploited by some on the left to deprive ordinary and law-abiding citizens of the right or ability to defend themselves.

    Whenever a predictable tragedy like this happens (Virginia Tech shooting rampage, Exxon Valdez, Iraq/Vietnam war fiascos, Macando well blowout, Fuchashima nuclear plant meltdown) conservatives are quick to rush in and proclaim the situation as an isolated case then fulminate about how horrible it would be if something was changed to prevent future incidents of this type. Liberals usually back down meekly until the next big disaster caused by conservative thinking. Then the fulminating begins all over again.

    Damn shame too. Liberals are just so much more on the ball than conservatives with their backwards thinking and disasterous policy initiatives. I guess the one thing that makes me love the liberal cause is probably also the thing that prevents it from ever gaining traction with the American people. That is liberals are a compassionate people who want to live and work together with folks of all persuasions.

    Conservatives on the other hand just want to have their way like a bunch of spoiled cry babies who are asked by their mommy to share their toy. Look at the tantrum Rush threw over the contraception issue. Maybe it’s time liberals adopt conservative tactics. Then again, if they did that they wouldn’t be liberals.

  9. Brad

    Doug, what you say about the Afghanistan case is ridiculous.

    Here is today’s news about that. It moved about the time you were posting your remark:

    “KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was charged on Friday with 17 counts of premeditated murder, a capital offense that could lead to the death penalty in the massacre of Afghan civilians, the U.S. military said. The 38-year-old soldier is accused of walking off a U.S. military base with his 9mm pistol and M-4 rifle, which was outfitted with a grenade launcher, before dawn …”

    What more is there to say? It’s being dealt with exactly as it should be.

  10. Brad

    And I would add that it would be particularly inappropriate for the commander in chief — the superior of every officer who will sit on the court martial — to express opinions about the case.

    It’s precisely BECAUSE the president has no jurisdictional authority in the Trayvon Martin that affords him some space in which to comment, as long as he does so appropriately and thoughtfully. Which is what he did.

    Doug, sometimes I think you’re playing a game in which you approach something essentially unassailable, and you set yourself a challenge: “I’m going to find SOMETHING in this to criticize and be cynical about!”

  11. bud

    While I don’t agree with Doug entirely here I didn’t really find the president’s words particularly useful. Just kind of a bland statement of the obvious.

  12. Brad

    There I disagree. I thought it just right. Each word was well calibrated. We just don’t see that often enough in public life, but when we do, as often as not, it’s coming from Obama.

    Here’s the thing: In my perfect world, the president of the United States would never, ever be expected to comment on something like this.

    I have written frequently in the past about how absurd I think it is for the president to be expected to say something about everything on 24/7 TV “news” (which unfortunately makes national “issues” out of things that would be local blotter items in a previous era) that strikes any sort of chord in the public.

    My favorite anecdote for how outrageous I think this is goes back a few years. I wrote a column about it. I was working out in the basement gym at The State one afternoon, and I had one of those 24/7 “news” channels on while I exercised. It happened to be the day of the Columbine shootings. First, there was the idiocy of the CONSTANT commentary, live, by people who still didn’t know what had happened. But the thing that really got me was that, when those people ran out of foolishness to say, the network kept cutting over to a guy standing in front of the White House, and each time, he told us that the president would soon have a statement about the shootings.

    This offended me on many levels, from the absurdity of the POTUS being expected to say something about a shooting that in NO way bore upon his job as leader of the free world, to the fact that this leading “news” medium was paying somebody to stand on the president’s lawn and BREATHLESSLY anticipate the president’s statement, as though the nation just couldn’t get on with its life until we learned what in the world the president thought about it.

    Of course, this didn’t bother President Clinton, because he LOVED to resonate and emote and feel everyone’s pain, but it offended me.

    Clinton, of course, was more attuned than I was to the public’s expectations of a president in the era that we were entering at that time.

    I have never reached the point at which I think it’s appropriate to expect such from the president, but I HAVE come to expect that it’s going to happen, because my fellow Americans (blast them) now demand it.

    So nowadays, a serious president (and Obama is a serious president, even by my Old School standards) has to find a way to deal with that demand.

    What struck me about what Obama said was that he met that expectation so masterfully. I could not fault anything he said, and was in fact struck by the creative, yet appropriate, way in which he engaged the subject.

    Unfortunately (and I probably hate it more than anyone), it’s now part of the job description. And Obama performed that duty with the same aplomb with which he approaches what I see as the appropriate duties — such as getting Osama bin Laden.

    And Bud, this wasn’t a case of stating the obvious. This was a case in which the nation’s first “black” president was commenting on something that exists on the rawest edge of black-white relations in this country. We’re accustomed to “black leaders” of the Al Sharpton variety — look for something that stirs racial passions, and get out in front of the parade of outrage. That was the model in the days when black folks lacked mainstream political power.

    But what is the model for a “black president” to react? There is none. Obama is having to make it up as he goes. And he has to acknowledge the fact that everyone sees him as black, but also comment in a way that shows he’s THE president, and not just the “black president.”

    He found a way to accomplish those tasks, with the perfect tones and perfect balance, thereby taking another step on the road to racial healing in this country. The president has been called on a number of times to do that — in a sense, he has to do it every day. There are things that are expected of him that were expected of no other president before him, in terms of setting the right tone on a sensitive racial issue.

    If he made it look easy and obvious to you, that just shows how very well he did it.

  13. Doug Ross


    How many of the 17 dead civilians would be alive today had Obama followed through on what he said he would do when he ran for President? Maybe Obama could discuss the circumstances that caused the soldier to be deployed AGAIN when he really didn’t want to go. Or maybe he could talk about all the traumatic head injuries suffered by soldiers that may have been a cause of this situation. Or maybe he could explain why this killer is tried in the U.S. instead of by Afghanistan. If an Afghan soldier killed a bunch of U.S. citizens here, would we allow him to be taken back to Afghanistan to be tried?

    Those deaths are directly a result of our useless occupation of a country for no good reason. That’s a far more important issue than why some idiot with a gun decided to play Dirty Harry.

  14. `Kathryn Fenner

    I think it’s nice when the leader of the free world takes time to set the tone for the nation. When the President calls the surviving loved ones of military and civilian horrors, when he *leads*….It was one of the best aspects of George W Bush, when he got it right, and Clinton was a genius at it.

  15. tim o'keefe

    I was feeling so much the way you did about Mr. Obama’s comments, Brad. It would be easy to be reactionary about what happened, to respond with a specific political agenda. This has nothing to do with politics. This is far more human that politics.

    I know that there are many senseless killings every day in America. This single case is getting so much attention compared to many others. But any time conversations happen about ridiculous laws, about raciism, about the senselessness of gun violence – then that can only be positive.

    I have two sons who are about Trayvon’s age. In the same circumstances, walking in the same neighborhood, being spotted by that same nutjob, it could have been one of them… except for the fact that they are white.

  16. Doug T

    I haven’t posted since the holidays, but I have to say bud’s first post nailed it. Thanks bud.

    And….this IS an example of racial injustice and gun culture gone wild.

    If the kid did swing a bag at the guy and runs, we shoot him dead?


  17. Phillip

    Brad, I completely agree with your comment above about the unprecedented balancing act Obama has to manage on an issue like this. To Doug I would say yes, the words are carefully chosen, which you can call “political” in a sense but to me in the best sense of that word, meaning trying to address the widest possible audience. There is the outrage which he must acknowledge. But he’s also speaking of it in personal terms that most parents would relate to in some way, whatever their race. But it’s true that the particular attention this case has received made it imperative that Obama say something, however circumspect.

  18. Bryan Caskey

    Our President’s tone provides a provides a stark contrast to alarmist and shrill noises coming from Sharpton and Jackson.

    I’m reminded of his remarks in the wake of the Giffords shooting – our President seems to be very good at striking a somber and reserved tone following tragedies.

  19. martin

    The leader of the free world is also the president of the USA and for him to comment on the mass murder of students at a high school in the USA is as appropriate as commenting about the victims of Hugo or Katrina.

    Are there classes in how to be obnoxiously sanctimonious? Narcissism seems to afflict not just politicians.

  20. JoanneH

    I seem to remember hearing a portion of the call Zimmerman made to 911. He was clearly told not to pursue. Clearly.

    What good are these neighborhood watch groups if they are going to just check the box and then proceed?

    “Called 911”–Check
    “Shot anyway without waiting for help”–Check
    “Claimed I ‘stood my ground'”–Check

    Zimmerman deserves any discomfort he will experience from this whether it is jail or just excoriation in the media.

  21. Doug Ross


    I don’t want Obama to be a defense lawyer, I want him to do what he said he would do when he ran for President. Those 17 deaths could have been prevented specifically by his actions.

    The bandwagon jumping on this one case has been way over the top. People wearing hoodies and posting pictures on facebook… what exactly do these people think is going to change? Racism goes away? Please…

  22. Rose

    Neighborhood watches are NOT allowed to be armed. The law enforcement officers that help set them up and instruct are crystal clear about that. We have one which consists of very rarely having to call the police or a neighbor when there is a problem – like the time a teen thought it would be fun to drive his jacked-up truck through our front yard. A neighbor saw it and called the cops and us (we were at work). Done. Of course, the teen didn’t realize that the yard he churned up belong to a police officer….
    BUT, my husband made sure the local PD handled it to avoid any impropriety.
    That’s how a Neighborhood Watch is supposed to function.

  23. Steven Davis II

    Doug T, explain Zimmerman’s broken nose, explain the injury to the back of his head that required stitches, explain the grass stains on Zimmerman’s back. I read today that there was a witness to the fight and it wasn’t Zimmerman on top beating the guy on the bottom. Which explains why Zimmerman would have been the one screaming for help. If I’m getting my ass beat and am in fear for my life I’m sure as hell going to use whatever is necessary to put an end to the situation.

  24. Steven Davis II

    Where are these marchers when attacks and killings happen in their own backyard? Why is it a national event just because Al Sharpton says so? This happened over a month ago and nothing happened until the media blew it up. The most dangerous thing to a black man is another black man… why aren’t they marching against that?

  25. Steven Davis II

    I’m saying that the media should be using current photos, not photos that are years old. You’ve worked in the media, why don’t they just use his baby pictures?

  26. bud

    Normally I don’t give much credence to what the right-wing spin machine is saying about an issue but in the Travyon Martin killing it seems important not to try this case in the court of public opinion. The facts as we know them seem to be damning against Mr. Zimmermon and even more damning in regard to the stand your ground law. But let’s be very, very careful not to pass judgement too quickly. Remember the dead voter issue where it was claimed that more than 900 dead people voted here in SC? Turns out the number is probably zero. Yet that didn’t stop the court of public opinion from going crazy over the initial allegation. So while it looks bad let’s give Mr. Zimmermon his day in court. Then again, he’s not been charged with anything. Perhaps that’s the biggest crime of all in this whole sad story.

  27. Silence

    Well, now the (Orlando) Sentinel is reporting a different account of the events that led up to the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The allegation from Mr. Zimmerman’s attorney is that Trayvon punched his client in the face, and slammed his head into the ground. Apparently there is a witness who corroborates that story.
    Lastly, it appears that Mr. Martin was suspended from school at the time the killing occurred due to being caught with a baggie containing marijuana residue at school.
    I’ll hold off judgement until all the facts are in, but maybe Mr. Zimmerman isn’t the nut-job he’s been portrayed as, and maybe Mr. Martin isn’t quite the perfect angel that he’s been portrayed as…

  28. Karen McLeod

    I don’t understand why it’s Zimmerman who’s claming self defense under the “stand your ground” law. Trayvon was walking along with his Skittles and iced tea. It was a rainy day, so it was quite reasonable to have the hood on his sweatshirt up. Mr. Zimmerman followed him in a car, got out of the car, and accosted him. If Trayvon indeed attacked Mr. Zimmerman, it seems to me that he was the one “standing his ground.”

  29. Brad

    … which of course points to a basic flaw in the law. Standing your ground, instead of getting the heck out of Dodge, is not always a wise approach. It can be an invitation to be shot…

  30. Mark Stewart

    Brad, theat’s just the point. If he had “run” from Zimmerman, wouldn’t that be like admitting “guilt”? True, he might be alive today (unless Zimmerman shot at him anyway), but at the least he would have ended up arrested for something that night.

    Silence still has this wrong; it doesn’t matter whether the kid was a good kid, a bad kid or whatever. He was walking back to the house where he was staying. He was chased down by a man with a gun who had it in his head that the kid was, at the least, a trespasser. Since Zimmerman left his vehicle with his gun, he clearly was under the delusion that Martin was guilty of far worse.

    Everything about this says Zimmerman was acting as a self-apponted vigilante. His bloddy nose takes nothing away from the chain of premeditation that lead to this killing.

    Nobody is saying that self-defense is not a reasonable right that we should all possess. It must, however, be squared with the rights of others to that same self-defense.

  31. Tim

    If you are a member of neighborhood watch, I think your only duty is to inform law enforcement of suspicious activities or crimes in progress, to witness the activity, and to leave if the situation appears dangerous, unless you observe dire threats to life and limb, and then to proceed with utmost caution, because you are more than likely to add yourself to a victim pool. You probably have no or minimal uniform, identification or any legal standing to stop, detain, chase or impede, any more than any normal joe on the street. The courts need to deal with this, but offhand, looks like Zimmerman took his responsibilities too far, and allowed the temperment of a threatened 17 year old kid to dictate the resulting circumstances. This guy to that kid was probably just some busybody getting all in his business. Its not the smartest way to deal with a kid who is probably very likely to not handle the situation with great emotional skill.

  32. `Kathryn Fenner

    How can anyone claim any sort of self-defense when he was originally in a car and the alleged aggressor was on foot?

    It’s like when my mother was stopped for speeding by a foot patrolman (true story), except that a kid ended up dead.

  33. Phillip

    Mark and Karen are exactly right. If a black kid in a hoodie gets approached rather suddenly or quickly by a white man who may be showing hostile intent, he has the same right to defend himself that Mr. Zimmerman would claim. The difference here being that Zimmerman seems to have gone over and approached Mr. Martin, not the other way around.

    As for marijuana residue and “angels,” nobody has to rise to the level of angelic perfection in order to have the reasonable expectation not to get accosted and/or shot when they are walking in public spaces.

  34. Steven Davis II

    Mark, as facts are coming out he’d also be alive if he hadn’t sucker-punched Zimmerman as he was walking back to his truck.

    But I can see that your mind is made up, you might as well contribute to the New Black Panther Party’s bounty on Zimmerman’s head. That’s another thing, what kind of outrage would we see if a white paramilitary group placed a bounty on a black man’s head?

  35. Steven Davis II

    Phillip, I guess Zimmerman walked into Trayvon’s fist too.

    I hear that Trayvon’s mother has already filed for two copyrights on phrases using her son’s name. Nothing says mourning like making a buck off selling the rights.

  36. Mark Stewart


    My mind is made up? No; but it is focused. What on earth does some silly publicity-seeking pronouncement by an uninvolved group have anything to do with the important national dialogue about the intersection of individuals’ rights of self-defense in public settings?

  37. SusanG

    I think that carrying a gun all by itself would make many people more likely to be aggressive, and thus more likely to get in situations where they get attacked, and feel the need to use that gun in what is then called self-defense (because they can’t defend themselves adequately from the natural consequences of their behavior otherwise). Without a gun, I bet Zimmerman never got out of his car.

  38. Doug Ross

    If this turns out to be another Tawana Brawley situation, will Al Sharpton get a second TV show on MSNBC?

  39. `Kathryn Fenner

    A fist wielded by a 17 year old boy is not a lethal weapon, if indeed this even happened. A fist wielded by a 17 year old boy against an armed man even less so. If Zimmerman had shot in the air, he could have made his point and doubtless Trayvon would have backed down….but we’ll never know, will we?

  40. Burl Burlingame

    Sounds like Steven Davis was a witness to events. He should testify.

    WHATEVER happened, it was clearly an altercation between two people. The shocking thing was that the police dispensed with anything approaching an investigation of what actually happened.

    Our lesson for today — an unarmed black kid on foot is generally going to lose in an altercation with a racist white man stalking him with a gun and a car, plus a police department at his back to support his “story.”

  41. Steven Davis II

    Mark, I see that you’re focused, on the media’s version of what happened. Why do you suppose they only show two pictures of the individuals… Martin as a 10-12 year old, and Zimmerman in an orange jail jumpsuit?

    So you don’t have a problem with a known Black militant and racist group putting a bounty on another man’s head. It’s just silly talk according to you. You’re the type that likely believe that Carter Strange instigated his attack.

  42. Steven Davis II

    Mark here’s a little background on poor little Trayvon:

    “Some facts that have come out about Trayvon Martin AKA Slim AKA #NO_LIMIT_NIGGA

    Trayvon was suspended for having marijuana. Previously he was suspended for having 12 unaccountable pieces of woman’s jewelry in his backpack and what the school security official described as a “burglary tool”. He was also suspended for tagging inside the school walls. The pictures posted by the media where five years old and completely misleading –– in reality the 17 year old Trayvon Martin was a grown man, 6’3″ with an unspecified weight (though speculated anywhere from 140-200lbs). According to tweets from his now taken down twitter account #NO_LIMIT_NIGGA, he was bragging online about hitting a bus driver, showing that he might have had a propensity for violence as stated by Zimmerman’s testimony. “

  43. Bart

    This is my one and only comment on the incident. How many on this blog were witnesses to what actually transpired? Answer, not one of you were there. Yet, each has weighed in and are assigning blame or innocence for the death of Trayvon.

    Until there is a formal investigation completed or a trial, any information other than a young black male was shot and died in a confrontation by a neighborhood patrol volunteer.

    Who started it, what happened, and what was said is speculation but speculation that has stirred passions and spurred on more hatred and division between the races.

    But, what else can we expect. The national pasttime for Americans is to reach conclusions based on incomplete information and declare it to the truth.

    Don’t jump to conclusions because of your particular political convictions and/or prejudices.

  44. Bob Amundson

    I’ve learned that when something tragic occurs, it is rarely simple but involves a series of interrelated events. It takes time to figure out exactly what happened and once that is done, usually fault can be found in numerous places. This event reminds me of a plane crash or a train wreck; an entire series of events went wrong. By reading all the posts, I have some understanding of the factors leading to this tragedy. The situation is very complicated, and my hope is our society will learn some lessons on how to coexist.

  45. Silence

    @’Kathryn – You should never fire into the air. You don’t know where it might come down and strike an innocent person. If you carry a weapon, you need to be ready to use it against an assailant. If you draw your weapon, you’d better be ready to use it (or have it used against you) and if you shoot, you’d better shoot for the center of mass.
    I wouldn’t be “playing cop” on the neighborhood watch, but if I was assaulted by a 17 year old boy, and I was carrying, I wouldn’t have a moment’s hesitation before I dropped him with a shot to the chest. I’d then double tap him to make sure that he didn’t get up and continue to pursue me.

  46. Brad

    I’m not so sure that’s what you’d do. The typical human response after shooting someone in the chest, however justified, is to puke. Most people have a powerfully ingrained aversion to killing other people. There are exceptions, but that’s the case with most people.

    Anyone who understands firearms knows the following: Don’t carry it unless you’re prepared to use it. Don’t draw it unless you’re prepared to fire. Don’t fire unless you’re prepared to kill. And yes, aim for the dead center of your target (and if you’re as bad a shot with a pistol as I am, you still might miss).

    If you’re not prepared to kill or be killed, don’t carry it.

  47. Silence

    @ Brad – Killing a “person” intent on causing you harm is no different than killing a wild animal. At the point where someone steps outside the boundaries of civilized society, and tries to rob, murder, rape, maim or worse, they are no longer really human, they have either lost or set aside the part of their brain or soul that makes them one of us.

    They are no different at that point than a rabid dog or a man-eating tiger. Don’t think of them as “someone”, it would be better to think of them as “something”, and dont mourn their passing.

    Think of them as “Reavers” and ask yourself, “What would Jayne or Mal do?”

  48. Tim

    you should also include,
    If you are on Neighborhood Watch, you are not a policeman. You don’t stop people unless you see a life-threatening crime being committed because you might be a victim yourself. You don’t ignore the 911 operators SOP advice to not pursue. You avoid scary people, you avoid crazy people. You call 911 and let the police handle it. Anyone pursuing a Criminal Justice degree should know that.

    By pursuing, he put himself in danger, along with Martin. He allowed the situation to then be in the control of an immature young man. Ultimately, Zimmerman may well have been in a life-threatening situation, but it may also be he is the one who put himself there. And now one is dead.

    The police failed to investigate, sequester evidence, or follow up. They are now resorting to leaking information to the press about Trayvon Martin to change the narrative, as if any of that unsubstantiated information has any bearing on this incident, rather than dealing with this upfront. Not a good sign.

  49. Brad

    There you’re wrong. They aren’t Reavers. They’re people. Reavers are invented so that action heroes have someone they can kill and have you still enjoy watching them. If they were killing those Alliance busybodies instead, their fans wouldn’t enjoy Mal and Jayne as much.

    Killing is a messy business, and most people pay a deep emotional price for it, however justified. You should read “On Killing,” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Fascinating book on the emotional, and I would also say spiritual, cost of killing other humans — even those who are trying to kill you.

    He presents research on warfare throughout the history of firearms, and reveals something interesting. I had known before I read him that historically, many soldiers didn’t fire their weapons when in combat. But Grossman demonstrates that most soldier, even when they fired, fired over the enemy’s head. The aversion to killing another is just that strong (except among a few, who tend to end up in Special Forces).

    The U.S. military realized that, and by the time of the Vietnam War, changed training to make aiming and firing more reflexive — sort of shoot first, and think later. The result is the deadliest military force in the history of the world. It’s one reason why that day in Mogadishu when 18 Americans were killed, there were about 1,000 Somalis killed. Americans don’t fire indiscriminately. They fire for effect.

    And it’s also one reason why we have so many cases of PTSD. Soldiers kill now, and pay the emotional price much later.

  50. Steven Davis II

    “If Zimmerman had shot in the air”

    Someone has little to no knowledge of firearms safety. You only pull the trigger when you intend to shoot what the gun is pointing at and you know where the bullet will hit. In this instance, you don’t shoot to scare, kill, or wound… you shoot to stop.

  51. Steven Davis II

    Silence – You’d “double-tap” after the attacker was already incapacitated? Will you need a special diet when serving your prison sentence? There’s not a jury in the country that will approve of your finishing off your attacker, and even if you were the victim, those extra shots just made you the bad guy and unless it can be proven that the first shot killed the attacker you’re looking at facing 2nd degree murder charges.

  52. Silence

    @ Brad – I think I’d actually mentioned the soldiers not shooting their weapons in a previous comment, I think back when we were talking about conscription and national service. Maybe I didn’t.

    Anyways, the conversation here isn’t about warfare. I’d make a clear distinction between soldiers engaged in lawful combat on the battlefield and thugs or predators intent on causing harm to an innnocent civilian.

    Warfare is generally an honorable occupation, although there are certainly incidents to the contrary. The professional soldiers (on both sides of a conflict, and I’m meaning uniformed combatants here, not terrorists or insurgents blending into the civilian population) are engaged in legal combat in support of the interests of the state, and are acting as a legitimate policy instrument.

    Violent crime is rarely, if ever, an honorable occupation. Participants have made a consious choice to break the rules, and to step out of the role of being a civilized individual in a society. They have basically gone feral.

    OK, comparing them to Reavers was hyperbole, but they have made the choice to do wrong. Certainly we still afford them legal rights and protections, because we are still civilized, even if they are acting as animals. However, once convicted, we may do with them as we please, up to and including the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole.

    As a citizen, father, husband etc. I have the duty to protect my family. To fail to do so would be dishonorable, irresponsible, and unforgiveable. Why would you lose even a moment’s sleep over some thug’s life if it meant protecting your child, wife, husband or loved one?

  53. Steven Davis II

    Silence – I’d love to have sat through your Concealed Weapons Permit class and heard what the instructor (typically a retired law enforcement officer) would have said about your Dirty Harry style comments.

    Have you ever noticed in police reports that trained officers have trouble hitting their target when facing an attacker? How do you expect you’d do as an untrained gun toter? You might get around to pulling the trigger, but not until you’ve finished peeing in your pants.

  54. Silence

    @ Steven – It would be so fast: I mean, “I was afraid for my life” and “honestly, officer, I couldn’t tell you how many times I pulled thie trigger, I just kept shooting until he stopped coming towards me.”
    I’m not going to go over and shoot him in the head at point blank range after he’s already lying motionless in a pool of his own blood….

  55. Brad

    Not me. I’ll have you know I have nerves of steel, and am perfectly capable of firing a weapon and wetting my pants at the same time…

  56. Phillip

    Brad is right. They’re still people: even Hitler, Saddam, Pol Pot, Qaddafi, Idi Amin. To segregate even the most heinous evil-doers into a “not human” category A)lets humans off the hook too easily as a species and B) deludes us as individuals and as a group/nation/culture into a false sense of immunity from slipping into evil’s grip. All humans carry within themselves the capability or potentiality to commit acts of what one might call “evil.” Our individual and group capacity to commit evil, even unspeakable evil, as well our capacity to do astonishing good, is at the very heart of what it means to be human. Any of us, given the right (or perhaps I should say the wrong) circumstances, are capable of just about anything. That doesn’t excuse evil, nor negate the right of self-defense, nor nullify the necessity of carrying out a system of justice and punishment. But it is a fundamental truth of human existence.

  57. Brad

    … not that I’ll hit what I’m aiming at.

    The last time I went target shooting with a pistol — a .38 special — I was STUNNED by how inaccurate I was. I was standing three paces away from a target and aiming as carefully as I could, and could NOT hit it.

    And it’s not just me. I understand how to aim a weapon; I’m not a bad shot with a rifle. But pistols are dangerous to anyone in the vicinity. I can only imagine how bad I’d be in a life-threatening situation. I’d probably hit something behind me.

  58. Silence

    @ Steven –
    CWP class with retired LEO- check.
    Dirty Harry comments – check.
    Trouble hitting the target? – that’s why I emptied the magazine.
    Wet/Poopy pants – how embarassing.

    I’ve had several jobs where I’ve carried, and only had to draw one time. I was managing a retail store and had a “customer” trying to come over the counter at me. Fortunately for both of us, he stopped and turned to run before I had the safety off. I went as far as the door and locked him out but he never turned back around. The shaking and fear didn’t start until after it was over. My BVD’s remained dry, fortunately.

  59. Mark Stewart

    I agree with Tim and think Bart is a little off base drawing the conclusion that the specific actions and timelines of this case are what is most relevant. I would disagree with that (while agreeing with Bart about the issue of rushing to reach a pre-conceptualized conclusion over this specific case).

    The issue of people carrying firearms in public places, concealed or not, is something that ought to be carefully thought out and circumscribed with “bright lines”. I would disagree with NYC’s ban on firearms (leaving them only to the criminals) as strongly as I disagree with the lobbyist spin that “stand your ground” is a blanket legal cover for holstering one’s brain as one draws a weapon. The question always comes down to agressive intent. A justified shooting cannot simply include the few seconds before a gun is fired. There is also the question of disproportionate force to consider.

    Where would we be as a society if every disagreement escalated to lethal violence? For instance, stand your ground would appear to reasonably permit a driver who felt menaced by an aggressive driver (the dangerous kind we have all seen) to fire on that car to protect themselves from a potential accident – which would put how many others at risk of harm? These aren’t just slippery slopes; these are the results of limited forthought – both legislatively and reactively.

    Too much is being put into the white guy with a car vs. a black teen walking circumstance of this Florida case. The issue with weapons in public places is far, far, larger than that.

  60. `Kathryn Fenner

    You are right. I don’t know about firearms, and I have absolutely no intention of carrying one. I believe in protecting the good guys BY FUNDING THE POLICE ADEQUATELY, and by keeping my eyes open and calling them as needed. I avoid becoming a target.I am a neighborhood activist, and I would never ever carry a gun or approach a presumed perpetrator. That’s what I pay taxes for: professionals.

  61. Burl Burlingame

    Anyone who shoots to kill should also be assured that their action will be investigated. The problem with Zimmermans lawyers claims of self defense — and that’s all they are — is that none of the “evidence” was collected or recorded by police at the time, and therefore none of it can be used in court. The police didn’t do Zimmerman any good either.

  62. Silence

    @’Kathryn – The police don’t have a duty to protect you, only to try to catch the perp afterwards. See Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005)

    @ Mark – An armed society is a polite society…

  63. Steven Davis II

    “I have absolutely no intention of carrying one. I believe in protecting the good guys BY FUNDING THE POLICE ADEQUATELY, and by keeping my eyes open and calling them as needed.”

    That’s your choice, but when someone tries carjack you or you walk in on someone burglarizing your home, they aren’t going to wait around for you to make a phone call.

  64. `Kathryn Fenner

    I lock my doors at home and when in the car. I would never have a loaded gun unsecured, even if I carried one, so what use would it be in the highly unlikely event I was attacked?

    Statistics show that people who live in homes with firearms are far more likely to be shot by said firearms than intruders are.

  65. Mark Stewart

    Burl’s point is well taken. Even when a police officer is involved in a shooting there is always an investigation. Making a snap judgment in the dark about what happened – when it involves the death or serious injury of a person – seems to me to be the height of carelessness.

  66. Steven Davis II

    How do you pump gas? How do you load groceries? Ever use an ATM from your car? Are burglars stop because they encounter a locked door?

    Well if you’re going to keep a trigger lock on a pistol when carrying, you’d be better off carrying a hammer.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah… and most car accidents occur within a 10 mile radius of your home.

  67. Tim

    “The police don’t have a duty to protect you”
    Is that why every police car is emblazoned with the words “To Protect and To Serve”?

    The case you site is about restraining orders, which I am not finding any relevance in this instance.

    Also, Trayvon will be much more polite now that he is dead. I guess Zimmerman would be more polite if Trayvon was similarly armed. I see now how much better that outcome would have been, because Mr. Zimmerman was acting in a cool, rational manner we expect of people who ignore police warnings not to pursue, and similarly of the cool rational manner of people who are 17 years of age being shouted at by strangers.

  68. Silence

    @ Tim – The “To Protect and Serve” on the side of the car is just there to make you feel good… And a Twilight Zone episode…

  69. Tim

    I am not a constitutional attorney, so won’t argue with you on the relevance of this one. That said, it would be a sad fig-leaf for weasly police hierarchies to hide behind in the face of public outrage. We boot Chiefs for much less.

  70. Silence

    @ Tim – I’m not saying that the police won’t protect you. I’m just saying that they don’t have to protect you. In any case, we’ve seen instances where local law enforcement is temporarily overwhelmed by events. I’ll point out post-Katrina looting in New Orleans and the L.A. or London riots, just to name the first few that come to mind. In those cases, law abiding citizens need to be able to step up and protect themselves.

  71. Libb

    For the record, those Facebook photos Steven provided a link to on 3/24 are false…that’s not Trayvon Martin.

  72. Tim

    I think the issue Silence brought up was a protection from civil liability for poor policework, not a constitutional mandate, whatever that is.

  73. Tim

    i see your point regarding civil liability. And agree that authorities have to triage events in extreme circumstances. We all need to protect ourselves. I don’t think there was a hurricane in February in Florida, though, and Z had his marching orders from 911 not to pursue. He put himself and Trayvon in danger by ignoring those orders, leaving this all in the hands of a 17 year old kid to make the sane, rational choices we all know 17 year old kids make.

  74. `Kathryn Fenner

    Get real, folks: The police cannot be everywhere, at least not on the budget we’re likely to give them. Of course they have no duty to protect you–failure to meet such a duty gives rise to negligence claims, at a bare minimum. They cannot protect everyone, everywhere, all the time.

    I’m happy with the level of police protection I receive, but I also expect to take reasonable precautions for my own safety. I avoid being in overly dangerous situations. Life has risks. I can deal with them just fine without a gun, and I wish folks around me felt likewise.

    More guns in circulation correlates with more innocent people getting shot, statistics (and common sense) repeatedly show.

  75. Phillip

    @Silence: “An armed society is a polite society.”

    Really? Anybody think we’re a more “polite” society than Japan? than Canada? In any case, we must be the most polite nation in the world, since we are the most heavily armed in terms of the civilian population.

  76. Tim

    I think they do have a duty, since they swear an oath to that effect. Its not a promise to place a forcefield around you. But a duty, yeah, sort of the same as a mission.

    I did a quick looksee, and found the Traveller’s Rest Policeman’s oath, which I guess is pretty similar to any officers oath.

    “I, (officer), having been duly appointed a police officer of the City of Travelers Rest and a peace officer of the State of South Carolina, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will defend, obey, and enforce the constitution and laws of the United States, of the State of South Carolina, and the ordinances of the City of Travelers Rest.

    That I will obey the lawful orders of my superior officers and the regulations of the Travelers Rest Police Department.

    That I will protect the rights, lives and property of all citizens and uphold the honor of the police profession, with my life, if need be.

    This I do solemnly swear this date.”

  77. Silence

    @ Philip – I’m not saying we are more polite, just that if you think the other guy might be armed you might think twice about cutting someone off in traffic or being a jerk to them. It’s only a saying, not a social science theory.

    @’Kathryn – Obviously we can’t afford to have the poice everywhere at all times, nor would we want to! I’m generally agreed that the police protection we receive is adequate, but again, it’s not always immediate. I also avoid being in overly dangerous situations, but you never know when you might be walking back to your mom’s boyfriend’s house after picking up some Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea only to be accosted by a self appointed neighborhood watchman/vigilante who is armed and dangerous…

    What’s a reasonable response time for the police department in an emergency situation? 5 minutes? 10?

  78. Steven Davis II

    @Kathryn – You and the rest of the anti-gun crowd going to love it if SC gets in line with several other states and allows “open carry”. Other states have allowed this and there hasn’t been an increase in shootings or Wild West mentality. But I bet there are some thugs out there looking a little closer at potential victims… am I going to get this guy’s wallet, or am I going to get my head blown off.

  79. Steven Davis II

    Phillip, do Japan or Canada have the level of crime and “social problems” that we have in the United States?

    As always, Archie Bunker has it right:

  80. `Kathryn Fenner

    A “duty” is a legal concept. The breach of a duty gives rise to a cause of action for negligence. If as a matter of public policy, you do not want every crime victim suing the police for negligence, you can have no duty–simple contrapositive logic.

    Now, in the vernacular sense, sure–it’s their job to protect us–although actually it’s their job to do the best reasonable job they can do to apprehend criminals, thus providing a deterrent effect against future crimes.

    The police are not our personal bodyguards.

    @ Phillip–sometimes snark becomes you.

  81. `Kathryn Fenner

    Also, there is no general police power in the US Constitution. It’s hard to find a constitutional mandate where there is no police power. The Equal Protection and Due Process clauses are fairly narrowly construed, too.

    This is not to say that the police cannot be found liable in some circumstances–it’s just that there is no general duty to protect all citizens at any cost.

    It would be impossible, anyway.

  82. Tim

    Thanks for the legal definition. I guess I wasn’t working in those terms, since I had conceded the issue of liability with Silence. I wasn’t offering that there is a universal responsibility by police to guard everyone. My point is that it is the police’s responsibility to confront someone like Trayvon, not volunteer neighborhood watchers. Sort of why they are called a “Watch”.

  83. Silence Wayne

    @ Tim & ‘Kathryn – Once again, the police don’t have to confront a perp in the act, they just have to try to catch him afterwards while the victim picks up the pieces of his/her broken life. That being said, I know that the officers of the CPD are very brave and actually do a very good job. I have a lot of respect for our neighborhood officer and the other officers that I’ve interacted with in North Region. The investigators… not so much.

    I do wish that Columbia had an active vigilante movement, more like Gotham City…

  84. Tim

    Is that right? Am asking, now. A police officer sees a crime in progress, say, a mugging. They don’t have an obligation to get involved? Am I stating this correctly, since I don’t want to be in the position of talking past people missing their point.

  85. `Kathryn Fenner

    Okay, generally, the cops have to have probable cause (a/k/a PC) that a crime has been committed or is very likely to be committed to stop someone.

    I believe they do have an obligation to get involved when they have reasonable cause to believe a crime is in progress. It’s not a constitutional obligation, unless the failure to intervene is racially motivated (“We don’t respond in those neighborhoods” say) or crosses some other special case.

  86. `Kathryn Fenner

    My neighborhood has been advised repeatedly to call the cops when we see something suspicious. That gives them PC in many cases.

    In what was reported in the Trayvon case, the suspicious behavior was wearing a hoodie and being a young black male in a gated community. That might be grounds for an officer to investigate, but does not require the police to do so. What crime is afoot? Walking while black?

    The officer could ask “Trayvon” to cooperate, but if T declined, the officer could not detain him. The officer could certainly tail him, though.

  87. Silence

    @ Tim – As I understand it: The only clear case of a duty to protect is when a citizen is in the custody of a state or municipality. There is no constitutional duty to protect free citizens.

    I’ll consult counsel and get some more information…

  88. Silence

    Yup, the officer has a duty to call in and report the crime, but if it would place him/her self at risk, they do not need to stop and intervene.

  89. Steven Davis II

    @Kathryn – “The police are not our personal bodyguards.”

    Exactly. Thanks for making my point. So who’s going to protect you if you don’t have a personal body guard? Criminals are a lot smarter than their victims sometimes.

  90. Steven Davis II

    @Libb – Yeah that’s the one picture I was talking about that has been determined a fake. What about the other one that’s showing him with his “gold teef”.

    Have you seen the picture of Zimmerman in his orange jail jumpsuit being shown next to Martin’s 5 year old picture? Is that the media trying to manipulate how people view each individual as well?

  91. Steven Davis II

    @Libb – can you now move on to Martin’s Tweets? I’m most interested in how you’re going to defend his bragging about punching a bus driver, a “female bus driver”. The more information that comes out about Martin, the more he looks like a thug.

  92. Tim

    The only thing that is certain is that this case was never properly investigated. Failing to do so has caused an enormous problem.

  93. Bob Amundson

    I am involved in Neighborhood Watch and CPD tells everyone at community meeetings to call dispatch if you see anything suspicious. We are told this includes calling when you don’t recognize people in the area, which is reinforced by CPD telling us how often calls like this result with arrests for burglary.

    This approach will always involve some aspect of racial profiling. Humans seemed to be wired to be suspicious of people with darker skin.

    Tim is right; it is certain this case was not properly investigated.

  94. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Steven, as I said above–pay attention, please, I recognize that there are some risks inherent in city life and in life in general. I do my best to take reasonable precautions, which do not include carrying a loaded gun.

  95. Burl Burlingame

    Again, lack of investigation is ALSO going to cause problems for Z-man. Without hard evidence collected, any prosecution will focus on motive and opportunity.

  96. Steven Davis II

    @Kathryn – I do pay attention to detail, which is how I got to where I am today. I know you don’t carry a gun, and likely don’t have anything to protect yourself inside your home other than a dull paring knife and an umbrella. You can take all the precautions you want, but criminals know an easy target when they see one.

    Burl – all of these problems that the Martin family and supporters are coming up with are backfiring. The latest is the video of Zimmerman being taken out of a police car at the police department. The lack of evidence of injury to his head and face proves he’s lying… according to the Martin family. What the video doesn’t tell you is that this video was taken 4 hours after the attack. There were emergency personnel on scene and I doubt he would have been left to sit there with dried blood on his head and face. Nice try Al and Jesse… next!!!

  97. Silence

    @ Burl – agreed. A proper investigation would have helped exonerate Zim. if he was innocent. Since one wasn’t done, he’s being tried and hung in the court of public opinion.

    Fortunately, in Columbia we have a full investigation, once we find out that the actual case investigation wasn’t conducted competently. Then we fire people.

  98. Burl Burlingame

    Normal procedure in any wrongful death situation is to record evidence, including any and all injuries sustained. Any policeman with a cell camera could have done so, and the town police chief was present at the scene, so you’d think they’d try to do a thorough job. We don’t know if such images were taken or not. They should have been, and if not, that’s a case of willful malfeasance.

    Here’s a paranoid thought. What if the police are deliberately bungling exonerating evidence so Z-man goes down?

  99. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Steven–Would-be criminals are most likely deterred by the eye-level dog nose prints on the front windows and the, um, signs of large dogs in the back yard.

    We’ve lived here since November 1998 and never even had an attempted break-in. I’m a pretty anxious person, and even I see no need to arm myself.

  100. Silence

    @’Kathryn – A serious question…Noting your dislike of firearms, what type of weaponry would you find acceptable for personal defense? Pepper spray, knife, shillelagh, sword, crossbow, longbow, spear, baton, 5-iron, Louisville Slugger, blackjack, entrenching tool, axe, 4-D cell Maglite, brass knuckles, martial arts training, or just a telephone?

    As a dog owner, I agree that K9’s are a fairly effective deterrent, and a great early warning system. They are especially effective when coupled with a Smith & Wesson.

  101. `Kathryn Fenner

    Pepper spray is fine. I use a telephone–I got my first cell phone for security when out and about. I think nonlethal weapons are fine, followed by those that require actual contact–cudgels like a baseball bat or Maglite–you aren’t just pulling a trigger. I doubt a crossbow could be adequately employed by most people in the heat of the moment.

    I repeat: a loaded gun at hand is an invitation for use by kids, by the depressed, by angry spouses, and so on. A locked up gun is not much use.

    There is risk in life.I have cut myself fairly badly a few times recently, which put a crimp in my piano playing, if nothing else, but a kitchen knife properly sharpened and wielded is useful beyond its potential for harm, So is a shovel, a Maglite, and so on. Martial arts training can’t be used against the possessor, and provides wonderful health benefits. A gun exists to kill people, as you all said. I say leave that to the professionals–properly trained cops!

    and if I am killed tonight in a burglary, or someone I love is, that’s the price of living in the world. It has always been a risk, and again, statistics show that more guns equals more innocent deaths.

  102. Silence

    @tim – can it not be both? A seriously snarky question? ‘Kathryn knew what I meant and gave a very satisfactory answer.

    I prefer medieval weapons myself, but i like my chances better with a gun. Maybe i can bring wearing swords back into fashion…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *