Five weeks ago, a 17-year-old boy was shot in Florida by a 28-year-old neighborhood watchman. In the last few weeks, the case has incited a lot of emotion from many people across the country. Although the Trayvon Martin case is far from the first incident of this nature, it has brought to light a major issue in today’s society: vigilante justice.
In the twenty first century, one has to wonder whether vigilantism really has a place in society. Should the Texas neighbor witnessing what he suspects to be a home invasion across the street really have the right to chase down the suspects and kill them with a shotgun? Should a middle-aged man in a rural neighborhood in upstate New York really walk away scot-free after gunning down a teenager he suspected of recent burglaries in the neighborhood?
Whether we like it or not, these situations are far from uncommon. Florida’s NRA-sponsored “Stand Your Ground” law is just one of many similar self-defense laws around the country that take a liberal stance on the use of deadly force in situations where the defendant claims they believed their life was at risk. However, I believe there should be a clear distinction between the use of deadly force when a person’s life is put in danger and when a person puts his or her own life in danger. Regardless of how threatened George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman, may claim he felt, we have to remember that he willingly put himself in that position. The police dispatcher told Zimmerman to stay where he was and to resist the urge to pursue Martin, but Zimmerman ignored the warning and followed the teen instead.
Paige Albano, a freshman at LIU Post believes gun control is at the center of this controversy. According to Msnbc.com, Zimmerman was arrested in 2005 on charges of “resisting officer with violence” and “battery of law enforcement officer.” The charges were later lessened to “resisting officer without violence” and eventually dismissed after Zimmerman entered a program aimed at alcohol education. “I definitely think we should look into tighter gun controls,” Albano said.
In a world of red light cameras and advanced technology, do we really need armed neighborhood crusaders? If, in the next few weeks, we find out that Martin was under the influence of marijuana or was peeping in car windows for unguarded Ipods, which I am, in no way, assuming he was, does it really matter? Is an Ipod or a GPS really worth a 17-year-old’s life? I don’t believe it is. I like my neighbors as much as the next suburbanite, but that doesn’t mean I want them armed and ready to take down anyone they deem “suspicious.”