President Obama, Jesse Jackson, and others have chosen to personalize the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., highlighting the racial issues by expressing concern for people who look like they do or live where “blacks are under attack.” Many conservatives and liberals have also already concluded that the shooter committed a crime. All of these reactions are premature.

In response to the shooting, Florida governor Rick Scott has set up a commission to review the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Gun-control organizations, including the Brady Campaign, have gone beyond this and even more drastically called for the end of right-to-carry laws.

But such outrage should be restrained until we have all of the facts. Zimmerman’s call to the police, which has been heard over and over again, does not appear to tell the whole story. There is other information that appears to back up the shooter’s account. That evidence, rather than racism, might well be the reason that police chose not to arrest the shooter. Fox 35 in Orlando spoke to one eyewitness, identified as “John,” the day after the shooting. He explained: “The guy on the bottom who had a red sweater on was yelling to me: ‘Help, help’ . . . and I told him to stop and I was calling 9-1-1.”

The witness further indicated that it was the guy on top who was doing the hitting, and that the shot occurred while that attack was taking place. The man who shot Martin, George Zimmerman, was the man in the red jacket. The police report corroborates the witness’s account: “While I was in such close contact with Zimmerman, I could observe that his back appeared to be wet and was covered in grass, as if he had been laying on his back on the ground. Zimmerman was also bleeding from the nose and back of his head.” Zimmerman told the police, “I was yelling for someone to help me, but no one would help me.”

Zimmerman and his neighbors seem to have had reason for forming a neighborhood-watch group: During the past year, the Miami Herald reports, eight burglaries, nine thefts, and one shooting occurred in their gated community. And Zimmerman had even caught at least one thief himself.

Prior to the spread of “Stand Your Ground” and “Castle Doctrine” laws, citizens who wanted to defend themselves from a criminal had to retreat as far as possible and then announce to the criminal that they were going to shoot. But obvious problems arise: Forcing a victim to take time to retreat can put their life in jeopardy, and a prosecutor might argue that a victim didn’t retreat sufficiently. There have been many cases where victims have been chased and knocked down a couple of times before firing in self-defense, and yet prosecutors claimed that the victim still could have done more to retreat before firing their gun.

The Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine laws replaced the original requirement to retreat to a “reasonable person’s” standard, instead stating that lethal force is justified when a reasonable person would believe that a criminal intends to inflict serious bodily harm or death. These laws do not protect those who shoot fleeing criminals in the back, provoke attacks, or use lethal force in the absence of a threat to life or limb.

The difference between the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws is where they apply: The Castle Doctrine applies in a person’s home, and Stand Your Ground extends the right to any place the defender has a right to have a gun. Forty-one states now have these laws in some form, though most have adopted them in the last decade, and the statutes haven’t caused any problems at all. By case law, six other states protect victims from having to retreat before using deadly force.

Allowing victims to defend themselves not only protects the lives of victims who come under attack, but deters criminals from attacking to begin with. I have myself conducted the only published refereed academic study on these laws, and I found that states adopting Castle Doctrine laws reduced murder rates by 9 percent and overall violent crime by 8 percent.

But Martin’s shooting has raised a lot of confusion over what the Florida law would allow. Irrespective of the Stand Your Ground law, Zimmerman did indeed have the right to investigate a strange person in his neighborhood. And when, before any confrontation, Zimmerman informed the police operator that he was following Martin, the operator’s advice that “we don’t need you to do that” was suggestive, not compulsory. By itself, investigating someone who is a stranger in the neighborhood does not imply a provocation. In addition, Zimmerman claims that Martin attacked him from behind.

If it turns out that the police report and witness are wrong, and Zimmerman was the aggressor, he certainly deserves to be punished. But if Zimmerman was attacked, pummeled, and bloodied by Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman had justification to shoot in self-defense. So far it looks as if the police made the right decision.

John R. Lott Jr. is the author of the third edition of More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2010). He previously served as the chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. He is also a co-author of the newly released book Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future


Thinking Right

April 2012

            First, may I be among the first to say, “Happy Easter,” remembering the triumphant resurrection of our Redeemer.  Our lives and future are bright only because He lives today!

Like almost every other person who writes occasionally for public consumption, I want to take a look at the Trayvon Martin media circus in Sanford, FL.  I am an unashamed, unabashed supporter of the Second amendment as it is written in our Constitution and fully support our Florida “Stand Your Ground” legislation.  If an intruder enters my house, car, or my personal space on the street threatening me or expressing threats of harm against me or those who accompany me I have every Biblical right to defend myself and my family or friends.  How this enters into the Zimmerman-Martin case I am not sure.  I seriously doubt it applies in this case.  It is being used as a flimsy excuse to enflame the followers of the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, the agitators who accused members of the Duke University Lacrosse Team for rape, when the facts and evidence brought acquittals in every trial.  Sharpton was also involved in the Tawana Brawley alleged rape case, even accusing Assistant District Attorney Steven Pagones of raping the young woman and being racist, even when the hospital where Brawley was treated stated there was no evidence of rape or sexual molestation.  Now the Black Panther organization has been incited by these various so-called community leaders to issue a ‘Dead or Alive’ bounty on George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin.  Mr. Obama is justly proud of his heritage, being the son of a Kenyan Father and White woman from Kansas.  George Zimmerman, who is being accused of Trayvon’s murder, is a man of Hispanic, Mexican descent with only one white parent

Is this the way to carry on a reasoned response to what the Black Community sees as an affront?  An affront by what racial group?  Every Citizen of the United States is first of all an American and secondly identifying ourselves as to in what area of the world our forbearers lived.  If people do not consider their American citizenship as paramount, go back to where you came from.  The shooting must, and is, being investigated by Peace Officers from Florida Department of Law Enforcement and others from jurisdictions other than Sanford.

Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Spike Lee (who published Zimmerman’s address and phone number,) and Barak (My son could look just like Trayvon) Obama should stop trying to make political/personal points out of this and let a thorough investigation tell us what went on.  To escalate racial tensions as these men have done is irrational and self-serving.  If Zimmerman is killed or severely injured as some groups have promised, these men should be prosecuted as accessories to the crime.  Recent reports and evidence seem to indicate a confrontation between the two, with Zimmerman receiving bruises and a broken nose.  One death is bad enough; we don’t need an escalating number of vigilante killings because of professional race-baiters.  Mr. Zimmerman is Hispanic, and no more Caucasian than Barak Obama, and if Zimmerman suffers harm, who will demonstrate in response to his death?  Let Law Enforcement do its job and support them in their decision.

I’m Vance and I’m Thinking Right.

Directly to the point, this needs widest distribution.


this took real guts by Voight,

he probably just ended his career in Hollywood.