Yes, Trayvon Martin Was a Victim of Florida Law
Many of the protesters demanding “Justice for Trayvon” have argued Trayvon Martin was a victim of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law because it enables George Zimmerman to claim a right of self-defense using deadly force, with Zimmerman only having to demonstrate he had reasonable fear that if he did not stop Trayvon Martin from continued combat Martin could have inflicted upon him life-threatening or maiming injuries.
Yet if it was any Florida law that made any physical combat between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin discriminatory in favor of George Zimmerman, it was Florida’s concealed-carry-weapons licensing law’s minimum age of 21 that denied the 17-year-old Trayvon Martin a right of self-defense with a concealed handgun.
Our laws are schizophrenic on the question of age, and infantalize post-pubescent human beings that thousands of years of human culture — and many cultures around the world today — have regarded as adults.
By age 17 — the age Trayvon Martin was this past February 26, 2012 when he died from George Zimmerman’s fatal gunshot wound — my maternal grandfather, Samuel Lindenbaum, had been working for a living for six years; and my paternal grandfather, Abraham Schulman, had traveled by himself from Russia to the United States then journeyed from New York City to New Orleans, carrying a concealed handgun for protection. At age 16 my own father, Julius Schulman, was a professional musician playing on cruise ships. At age 14 I was regularly selling professional photography to local newspapers in Natick, Massachusetts.
At age 17 Trayvon Martin could not sign binding contracts in his own name, for example, an apartment lease, a purchase agreement for a car, or a credit-card application. He could not live on his own, legally drink alcohol, buy cigarettes, purchase a lottery ticket, marry, vote, or own a firearm and apply for a Florida CCW license. Yet, if the situation had been reversed and Trayvon Martin had killed George Zimmerman, there is virtually no doubt the 6’3″ Trayvon Martin would have been tried in Florida’s criminal courts as an adult.
A society in which a class of individuals has none of the rights of an adult yet at the capricious decision of a judge can be held criminally liable as an adult is a society with a legal underclass as much as the Jim Crow-South where blacks were taxed the same as whites — and subject to the same criminal liabilities — yet could not sit in the front of public-transit buses, use whites-only public restrooms or public-park water fountains, or marry outside their own skin color.
Regardless of how it finally emerges who attacked whom on that chill and rainy evening, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was denied the right exercised by George Zimmerman to armed self-defense as he walked from a local convenience store to his father’s fiancee’s home in Sanford, Florida’s Twin Lakes gated community.
Author’s Note: Thanks to my reader Anthony Beecher who commented on my previous article “What George Zimmerman Really Said.” He commented, “The real tragedy of this stand your ground law is that it is inherently stacked against youths because they are not permitted concealed carrys. Trayvon was not legally old enough to be prepared to protect himself from this stalker,” which inspired this article. I’d previously written on the topic of the double-standard of adult liabilities with no rights in my March 2001 Sierra Times article “Justifiable Insanity, reprinted here.
–J. Neil Schulman
This article is Copyright © 2012 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!