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American Gun Culture Monday July 29, 2013

American Gun Culture

There are many things to learn from the Trayvon Martin - George Zimmerman case, and many opinions has been aired and written about the case. But in my opinion, what more people need to be saying - and what hasn't been learned - is that IF George Zimmerman hadn't been carrying a gun that evening, it's likely that no one would be dead.

Trayvon Martin is dead and George Zimmerman, quite reasonably, now fears for his life. If Zimmerman had been convicted and gone to jail, he would likely have been kept in segregation for his own safety, as he undoubtedly would have been a target.

In my opinion the focus of racial profiling or racial prejudice is a distraction from the real issue: Gun culture in America. Americans like Trayvon Martin are not safe, irrespective of their race, because too many Americans have guns in their hands or in their belts, and guns embolden people to do things they wouldn't otherwise do.

George Zimmerman almost certainly wouldn't have gotten out of his car or followed Trayvon Martin if Zimmerman didn't feel empowered by the gun he carried - and Trayvon Martin would almost certainly be alive. You may have heard the testimony from Zimmerman's fitness trainer - physically George was extremely "soft", with a very high percentage of body fat, and athletic ability rated as ZERO-POINT-FIVE out of ten. That's not someone who would have the advantage in a one-on-one confrontation with anyone, let alone a healthy young man. But with a gun in his belt, he was much stronger than a point 5. And he knew that. I have no doubt whatsoever that if Zimmerman didn't have a gun, there would have been no confrontation. He would have followed the 911 operator's advice not to follow Trayvon, and stayed where he was when Trayvon ran away from him. And both men would be alive today.

The real lesson from all of this is that both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman are victims of America's gun culture. Zimmerman wanted to be a neighborhood hero, and in America's culture, as seen in the movies and on television, America's heroes use guns. And unlike the movies and television, in real life, real guns kill real people.

The US Constitution and its Amendments grant citizens certain rights, and the NRA is the most powerful lobbying group in the "land of the free and the home of the brave". An often-quoted phrase is Robert A. Heinlen's statement that "An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life". I don't know. That sounds, to me, a lot more like fear than bravery or freedom. But then, I'm from Canada, one of the most polite societies in the world, even with a gun ownership rate less than a third of the US'.