NRA relationship with Florida a big reason Zimmerman remains free

OPINION - George Zimmerman is a free man despite putting Trayvon Martin six feet under because Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature has an incestuous relationship with the NRA...

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George Zimmerman is a free man, despite putting Trayvon Martin six feet under, because Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature has an incestuous relationship with the NRA.

The volunteer night watchman for the Retreat at Twin Lakes townhome development in Sanford, Florida claims he killed the unarmed black teen in self-defense. The state’s Stand Your Ground law, enacted in 2005 at the behest of the National Rifle Association, makes it lawful for individuals to use deadly force if they have a reasonable fear of harm or death to themselves or others. Prior to its enactment, the law required an effort to escape.

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Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said his department’s investigation determined that the 28-year-old Zimmerman was in such fear when he killed Trayvon, a 17-year-old Miami high school junior. “In this case, Mr. Zimmerman has made the statement of self-defense,” Lee said. “Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don’t have the grounds to arrest him.”

That’s the outcome the NRA intended when it pushed for Stand Your Ground: Shoot first, be exonerated later.

Stand Your Ground is nothing more than a license to kill.

In a society where hoodie-wearing black youths strapped with Skittles and ice tea, such as Trayvon Martin, are deemed suspicious for simply walking home, we can expect more such shootings from trigger happy gunmen who will have the law on their side.

The irony is that Florida’s gun laws were originally enacted to keep guns out of the hands of its black citizens.

Today, the gun lobby would have every American locked and loaded virtually anywhere in America. And Florida has enabled their cause despite opposition by law enforcement.

It was one of the first states to enact a so-called “shall issue” law, which requires that permits to carry concealed weapons be issued to applicants who meet uniform standards. It also was the first state to enact a “stand your ground” law, which passed both the House and Senate easily. At least 16 other states have followed with similar legislation, including Colorado with its Make My Day law.

Former Miami Police Chief John F. Timoney feared “stand your ground” would give gun owners “total immunity,” and that innocent children would be among its casualties. “Whether it’s trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn’t want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house,’’ Timoney told the New York Times, “you’re encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn’t be used.’‘

That may well be the case in Trayvon’s shooting.

Justifiable homicides tripled after stand your ground was enacted and prosecutors and courts excused the killings in a majority of cases that invoked the law.

An emboldened NRA came back with a Bring Your Gun to Work bill in 2008 that allows individuals to carry firearms to their places of employment as long as they remain secured in their cars. The Florida Legislature was happy to oblige.

The sponsor of both laws was state Rep. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican who was the NRA’s 2004 Defender of Freedom Award, a member of Mitt Romney’s 2007 Florida presidential steering committee, and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2nd Amendment Coalition.

In 2011, the NRA decided that doctors shouldn’t be able to ask their patients if they owned guns, and their friends in the Florida Legislature once again went along.

A federal judge struck down the so called Docs vs. Glocks law, but another NRA initiative from 2011 remains. That law imposes fines of $100,000 for municipalities that enforce their own reasonable gun control laws, such as prohibiting firearms in parks.

A bill filed this year to repeal the measure went nowhere. Not surprisingly, the NRA opposed it.

Nationally, 73 percent of the NRA’s political contributions — $1.9 million — went to Republican candidates from 2004 to 2010. The organization also has been generous to Florida Republicans, contributing $125,000 to the state’s Gun Owners Party since 2003.

It’s no wonder the Sunshine State’s other nickname is the Gunshine State.

Had Zimmerman killed Trayvon in a state without a Stand Your Ground law, a jury would get to decide whether his fear was reasonable, and Trayvon’s shooting justified.

The NRA would like to see Stand Your Ground laws nationwide.

“Our Founding Fathers understood,” CEO and executive vice president Wayne LaPierre told an audience of conservatives, “that the guys with the guns make the rules.”

Unfortunately for Trayvon Martin and his family, that’s the reality in Florida.