But Man Bites Dog stories are a lot rarer than Dog Bites Man. Therefore, we’ll need to apologize for noting yet again that the Times-Picayune’s Jarvis DeBerry has written an opinion piece replete with left-wing – specifically this time, anti-2nd Amendment – tropes and covered in racialist overtones.
If DeBerry is capable of much else, we’ve yet to see evidence thereof.
Today’s episode involves gun rights and the Trayvon Martin case, and it trashes Sen. David Vitter for pushing a bill to streamline how governments treat people wanting/needing to carry a concealed weapon…
Is there ever a time when gun lobbyists pause and say to themselves maybe this isn’t the right time? Does there ever come a time when conservative lawmakers are emboldened to tell the NRA no?
Rhetorical questions, both. We know that at the National Rifle Association, there’s no such thing as an awkward moment. As its members believe themselves to be forever under siege, it’s always time to reload. As for the lawmakers determined to stay in good with the NRA, there’s never any freedom; they must do what the NRA demands and do it when the group says do it.
So it is that as the country mourns the fatal Feb. 26 confrontation between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., the next morning’s school shooting in Chardon, Ohio, that killed two teenagers and the April 2 rampage at Oikos College in Oakland, Calif., that killed seven that Sen. David Vitter set about fixing what he calls a “complicated problem.”
What is that problem? Varying state laws that complicate cross-country travel for those with concealed weapons permits. As it is, a concealed weapons permit for one state is not necessarily transferable to another. That’s only an issue for the perpetually insecure, those who can’t be without their guns without feeling like a turtle yanked out of its shell.
DeBerry then goes on to claim that most Americans don’t own guns (which might be true or it might not; Gallup reported in October that 47 percent of Americans have guns handy, and one has to wonder if that number may be underreported because people aren’t comfortable talking about what they have in their house), and then channels that majority to make a statement so inane as to cause a mild concussion among some of its readers…
…and those who don’t aren’t likely to understand why a subset of gun owners feel so incomplete without their pieces or why they think it’s better to change federal law than leave their weapons at home. Why do the ones who are always strapped act the most afraid?
Only DeBerry could be so intellectually lazy not to recognize the obvious answer to his question – maybe many of the people who find it necessary to have a gun handy are in circumstances which generate justifiable fear. Like, for example, a woman who may have been the victim of a violent crime, or someone who lives or works in a bad neighborhood, or someone who travels with valuables.
Or maybe it’s none of his damn business why they want a weapon with them. The 2nd Amendment says the people have a right to bear arms. It doesn’t qualify that right in any way, shape or form.
Naturally, DeBerry had to throw Trayvon Martin’s name into his flimsy argument against Vitter’s bill. He never did mention any specifics as to why it is that Trayvon Martin was relevant to Vitter’s bill, outside of somehow being a gun-related case which, together with the school shooting in Ohio and the murderous rampage at the Korean college in California, combine to make it disrespectful and/or impolite for Vitter and his colleagues to seek to expand gun rights. He then uses the Trayvon Martin case to gripe that Vitter’s bill overrides harsh gun control bills in some states by forcing those states to respect concealed carry permits issued in more 2nd Amendment-friendly locales…
Like Florida, where George Zimmerman had a concealed carry permit despite a past that includes a fight with a law enforcement official and a restraining order filed against him by an ex-girlfriend.
Does anybody get turned down in Florida? The state has issued 920,000 concealed weapons permits. That’s twice as many as Texas, despite having 6 million fewer people. As The Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau chief puts it, “The Legislature puts Florida’s gun licensing program under the control of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the agency that ensures the safety of fruits and vegetables.” The Orlando Sentinel notes that Floridians can be issued concealed weapons permits without demonstrating the ability to hit a target.
Why should states with sensible restrictions be made to take in all the inexperienced hotheads Florida may have approved?
Is it too much to assume, based on the above, that DeBerry would have been happier if Martin’s beating Zimmerman’s head into a concrete sidewalk had led to a fatal brain injury than for Zimmerman to have shot Martin out of self-defense (at least the way Zimmerman saw it the night of Feb. 26)? Or is DeBerry ignorant of the context in which Zimmerman had a gun in the first place? This from a very enlightening Reuters story from last week about the events leading up to the Zimmerman-Martin affair…
The first time the dog ran free and cornered Shellie in their gated community in Sanford, Florida, George called the owner to complain. The second time, Big Boi frightened his mother-in-law’s dog. Zimmerman called Seminole County Animal Services and bought pepper spray. The third time he saw the dog on the loose, he called again. An officer came to the house, county records show.
“Don’t use pepper spray,” he told the Zimmermans, according to a friend. “It’ll take two or three seconds to take effect, but a quarter second for the dog to jump you,” he said.
“Get a gun.”
That November, the Zimmermans completed firearms training at a local lodge and received concealed-weapons gun permits. In early December, another source close to them told Reuters, the couple bought a pair of guns. George picked a Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm handgun, a popular, lightweight weapon.
By June 2011, Zimmerman’s attention had shifted from a loose pit bull to a wave of robberies that rattled the community, called the Retreat at Twin Lakes. The homeowners association asked him to launch a neighborhood watch, and Zimmerman would begin to carry the Kel-Tec on his regular, dog-walking patrol – a violation of neighborhood watch guidelines but not a crime.
The Reuters story goes on to describe a situation in which a crime wave and a neighborhood in free fall made for gun ownership and a concealed-carry permit to be perfectly reasonable for someone in Zimmerman’s position…
By the summer of 2011, Twin Lakes was experiencing a rash of burglaries and break-ins. Previously a family-friendly, first-time homeowner community, it was devastated by the recession that hit the Florida housing market, and transient renters began to occupy some of the 263 town houses in the complex. Vandalism and occasional drug activity were reported, and home values plunged. One resident who bought his home in 2006 for $250,000 said it was worth $80,000 today.
At least eight burglaries were reported within Twin Lakes in the 14 months prior to the Trayvon Martin shooting, according to the Sanford Police Department. Yet in a series of interviews, Twin Lakes residents said dozens of reports of attempted break-ins and would-be burglars casing homes had created an atmosphere of growing fear in the neighborhood.
In several of the incidents, witnesses identified the suspects to police as young black men. Twin Lakes is about 50 percent white, with an African-American and Hispanic population of about 20 percent each, roughly similar to the surrounding city of Sanford, according to U.S. Census data.
One morning in July 2011, a black teenager walked up to Zimmerman’s front porch and stole a bicycle, neighbors told Reuters. A police report was taken, though the bicycle was not recovered.
But it was the August incursion into the home of Olivia Bertalan that really troubled the neighborhood, particularly Zimmerman. Shellie was home most days, taking online courses towards certification as a registered nurse.
On August 3, Bertalan was at home with her infant son while her husband, Michael, was at work. She watched from a downstairs window, she said, as two black men repeatedly rang her doorbell and then entered through a sliding door at the back of the house. She ran upstairs, locked herself inside the boy’s bedroom, and called a police dispatcher, whispering frantically.
“I said, ‘What am I supposed to do? I hear them coming up the stairs!'” she told Reuters. Bertalan tried to coo her crying child into silence and armed herself with a pair of rusty scissors.
Police arrived just as the burglars – who had been trying to disconnect the couple’s television – fled out a back door. Shellie Zimmerman saw a black male teen running through her backyard and reported it to police.
After police left Bertalan, George Zimmerman arrived at the front door in a shirt and tie, she said. He gave her his contact numbers on an index card and invited her to visit his wife if she ever felt unsafe. He returned later and gave her a stronger lock to bolster the sliding door that had been forced open.
“He was so mellow and calm, very helpful and very, very sweet,” she said last week. “We didn’t really know George at first, but after the break-in we talked to him on a daily basis. People were freaked out. It wasn’t just George calling police … we were calling police at least once a week.”
In September, a group of neighbors including Zimmerman approached the homeowners association with their concerns, she said. Zimmerman was asked to head up a new neighborhood watch. He agreed.
DeBerry’s piece sounds as though he would have you believe it’s somehow irresponsible for Florida to allow residents in troubled communities like Twin Lakes to carry concealed weapons. Those residents should arm themselves with rolling pins and scissors, one assumes, when the burglars come.
The fact Zimmerman killed Martin in the midst of a violent confrontation is certainly a tragedy. But at least from Zimmerman’s perspective, and one imagines it’s entirely likely to be the jury’s perspective as well, the fact that the results were tragic would have been no less the case had Zimmerman not been carrying a gun; he had reason to believe Martin was going to kill him. According to Zimmerman, Martin had told him so. And people with guns don’t start fistfights with people who don’t have them; one of the first things Zimmerman would have been taught in the gun safety course he took in advance of getting that concealed-carry permit was that when you draw down on someone they’re most likely going to run away, not charge you. There is certainly no reason why you’d close on someone when you have a gun; Martin would have had to start the fistic encounter which led to his death.
Matthew Owens sure could have used a gun, after all. Owens, who is less a saint than Zimmerman and surely someone DeBerry would have little use for, was set upon on his front porch in Mobile by a gang of some 20-40 people wielding weapons as diverse as pipes, chairs and paint cans and beaten within an inch of his life – for the crime of having told off some of his black neighbors in highly impolite terms. Quin Hillyer, who has been largely alone among national media figures in covering Owens’ ordeal, offers this latest description of the attack…
But the witnesses said, first, that about 20, maybe 25 people poured into the yard. And with that many people in a yard with very little egress opportunity, it is clear that the mere presence of all those people, unless they were there to stop the attackers, would have the effect of cornering Owens. They said, second, that there was so much yelling that it was difficult to tell what the predominant message of the yellers was, but that some people were clearly yelling to call the police and to not go into the yard — remarks presumably aimed at the attackers as well.
In other words, at least some people on the scene were, by this telling, trying to act responsibly.
My witnesses said they don’t know how long the beating went on. They vamoosed back down the block to call the police — but the police came onto the scene very quickly, so somebody else probably already made the call.
Finally, let it be said that there does seem to be a bit of the equivalent of omerta going on here: No matter how many people were around that night, nobody seems to be able to identify a single other person who was on the scene. Everybody to whom I’ve spoken who says they were on the scene says they weren’t part of the crowd in the yard, that they didn’t know who any of the pursuers were, that they can’t identify even those who tried to do the right thing, and that it was all a big jumble.
Perhaps if Owens had been “strapped,” as DeBerry put it, we’d have a different story; he might have frightened the mob off and saved his skin, or perhaps he would have shot someone defending himself. Maybe he might have killed someone, in which case DeBerry probably would have lumped the Owens affair in with the Zimmerman affair as an example of why people shouldn’t have guns – just take the beating you’ve got coming to you, might be his advice.
What advice would DeBerry offer to the two Marines from Camp LeJeune who happened upon some late-night unwanted visitors bent on burglary at one of their homes, ultimately killing them?
According to police, three residents returned home to find two intruders in the house.
Police say the intruders attacked the residents and gunfire was exchanged. The two intruders killed have been identified as 33-year-old Diego Everett and 33-year-old Maurice Skinner, both from Jacksonville.
The three residents of the home were treated and released from Onslow Memorial Hospital. Two of the residents are active duty Marines based out of Camp Lejeune.
No charges have been filed at this time. Jacksonville police say they are working with NCIS and the Jacksonville District Attorney’s Office on the case.
The details of that story indicate that but for the ability to get a shotgun the burglars had taken out of the house away from them, none of the three would have survived the encounter. It’s not, strictly speaking, similar to what Zimmerman or Owens found themselves in, outside of the fact that all three were attacked by violent people and in two of the three cases defended themselves with guns.
And yes, all three were attacked by people who happened to be black.
Which isn’t really all that important to the issue at hand, namely whether people ought to be allowed to defend themselves with guns like the Constitution directs.
Here’s one more anecdote which might suggest allowing folks to have a gun handy could be a good idea – maybe DeBerry hasn’t heard about the two newspaper reporters in Norfolk, Virginia who were brutalized by another mob…
Wave after wave of young men surged forward to take turns punching and kicking their victim.
The victim’s friend, a young woman, tried to pull him back into his car. Attackers came after her, pulling her hair, punching her head and causing a bloody scratch to the surface of her eye. She called 911. A recording told her all lines were busy. She called again. Busy. On her third try, she got through and, hysterical, could scream only their location.
Church and Brambleton. Church and Brambleton. Church and Brambleton.
It happened four blocks from where they work, here at The Virginian-Pilot.
Two weeks have passed since reporters Dave Forster and Marjon Rostami – friends to me and many others at the newspaper – were attacked on a Saturday night as they drove home from a show at the Attucks Theatre. They had stopped at a red light, in a crowd of at least 100 young people walking on the sidewalk. Rostami locked her car door. Someone threw a rock at her window. Forster got out to confront the rock-thrower, and that’s when the beating began.
Neither suffered grave injuries, but both were out of work for a week. Forster’s torso ached from blows to his ribs, and he retained a thumb-sized bump on his head. Rostami fears to be alone in her home. Forster wishes he’d stayed in the car.
Forster and Rostami could have used a gun that night. It would have likely saved them a trip to the hospital. And there’s this…
Forster and Rostami wondered if the officer who answered their call treated all crime victims the same way. When Rostami, who admits she was hysterical, tried to describe what had happened, she says the officer told her to shut up and get in the car. Both said the officer did not record any names of witnesses who stopped to help. Rostami said the officer told them the attackers were “probably juveniles anyway. What are we going to do? Find their parents and tell them?”
The officer pointed to public housing in the area and said large groups of teenagers look for trouble on the weekends. “It’s what they do,” he told Forster.
Could that be true? Could violent mobs of teens be so commonplace in Norfolk that police and victims have no recourse?
Police spokesman Chris Amos said officers often respond to reports of crowds fighting; sirens are usually enough to disperse the group. On that night, he said, a report of gunfire in a nearby neighborhood prompted the officer to decide getting Forster and Rostami off the street quickly made more sense than remaining at the intersection. The officer gave them his card and told them to call later to file a report.
The next day, Forster searched Twitter for mention of the attack.
One post chilled him.
“I feel for the white man who got beat up at the light,” wrote one person.
“I don’t,” wrote another, indicating laughter. “(do it for trayvon martin)”
But let’s come closer to home on this issue. For DeBerry to disparage people who he thinks “act scared” and thus feel the need to carry guns, he needs to be awfully divorced from the hard reality which confronts so many folks living in rough neighborhoods – namely, that there is criminal activity, a poisonous, destructive culture and physical danger staring them in the face at all times.
There are a couple of YouTube videos emanating out of two neighborhoods in Baton Rouge which have made the rounds in the past week and we can absolutely guarantee will offend your sensibilities in multiple ways (but we’re showing them anyway because they make a pretty strong point about why some people might feel like they need a gun). The first one comes from the Gardere Lane area, which is a war zone in the midst of generally decent society…
And the second comes from North Baton Rouge…
Both videos, put out by the same YouTube account (“TheLousinarappers”) show neighborhoods in which you’d have to be absolutely crazy not to have a gun. We don’t know what DeBerry’s neighborhood looks like, but the guess here is he does well enough for himself that he lives in a place where if a gaggle of teenagers and 20-somethings congregated in front of his neighbor’s house and commenced to cursing and waving guns around while making poorly-articulated threats of violence he’d be calling 9-1-1 with record speed – and for good reason.
If we’re correct about the quality of DeBerry’s residential area, we can also say that the people living in neighborhoods like those in the two videos above have less options. In those neighborhoods, calling 9-1-1 about gang-bangers waving guns around probably gets you a “So what?” from the dispatcher, and the local cops know better than to attempt to lay down the law there. So the people in those neighborhoods know a few things about survival; first, you don’t tell the cops anything about what goes on in the neighborhood, second, you do the best you can to make friends with the thugs in the streets and not irritate them, third, you put bars on all your windows and reinforce your doors, and fourth, you’d better have a gun just in case.
And that fourth part doesn’t talk about whether you should get a permit to carry that gun. How many of the low-lifes in those two videos have permits for the hardware they’re slinging around? They’re on video with those guns. Think they’re going to be taken off the streets any time soon? Not likely.
It’s nice that doesn’t describe DeBerry’s world, if we’re right. For the folks who have to live amongst the animals – regardless of whether they’re black or white or green or blue – denying them the right to protect themselves is bad policy and, frankly, cruel. What’s the difference whether Vitter’s bill is an interstate reinforcement of 2nd Amendment rights or not?
And why can’t DeBerry recognize that law-abiding people have the same right to self-protection as the criminals do?