CeaseFire PA: Trayvon Martin-like Shooting Could Happen Here
Pennsylvania-based anti-gun violence coalition CeaseFire PA have a message out capitalizing on the Florida Trayvon Martin killing, noting because of our gun laws, a similar situation could happen in Pennsylvania.
“News reports warn that Florida’s reckless “shoot first, ask questions later” law may actually protect the vigilante who gunned down an unarmed teenager with nothing in his hands except candy and a drink,” reads an email from the organization. “But what you might not know is that the same thing could happen here in Pennsylvania.”
The claim then made by CeaseFire is that Gov. Tom Corbett’s signing of the “Castle Doctrine” gun rights bill last year makes it easier for more situations like the one in Florida to happen.
Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot and killed on February 26, 2012 by George Zimmerman, 28, in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman claimed he was acting in self-defense and no arrest was made. Though in the last week, organizations and news outlets have been reporting that Martin did not have a weapon on him—just a bag of Skittles candy and an iced tea. It’s also been reported that Zimmerman had pursued Martin and called the police on the boy several times. Some have called this a case of vigilante justice.
On March 19, the U.S. Department of Justice announced they’d conduct a thorough review of the alleged crime. Zimmerman was not immediately arrested because of a 2005 Florida ’stand your ground’ law backed by the National Rifle Association. The LA Times says the law “asserts that a person has no duty to retreat when facing an attacker and has a right to use deadly force if he “reasonably” believes he or others are threatened with death or great bodily harm. It also grants “true immunity” from civil and criminal charges.”
They add: “This means a judge can use this law to dismiss a case before it goes to trial, and also that Florida prosecutors are less likely to pursue homicide cases against people who claim they acted in self-defense.”
The Castle Doctine is similar to stand your ground laws, but is not necessarily intended to go as far. “This common-sense measure permits law-abiding citizens to use force, including deadly force, against an attacker in their home and any place where they have a legal right to be,” according to the NRA. “It also protects individuals from civil lawsuits by an attacker or attacker’s family when force is used.”
CeaseFirePA notes the laws are similar in that Pennsylvania’s law, “allows the use of deadly force even when it is not absolutely necessary. They put our state on record as one that allows the brand of vigilantism promoted by the gun lobby… The new law threw out the long-held standard that, outside of one’s home, a person has an obligation to avoid using deadly force. That reasonable standard was law on the books for decades – and the gun lobby couldn’t show a single case where somebody who acted in legitimate self defense was inappropriately prosecuted.”
Many liberal non-profits and news organizations have jumped on the Martin case as both an anti-racist action and perhaps the reconsideration of some American gun laws. There will be a rally/vigil for Martin in Philadelphia on Monday.