Yes, It’s About the Guns, Too–and Barbarism

Even as reaction to the Zimmerman verdict becomes mostly about race (thanks in part to Richard Cohen, who should be on his knees retching with shame if he read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ reaction to his “reasonable suspicion” column), TNR’s Alec MacGillis is right: let’s don’t forget about guns.

MacGillis today makes a convincing case that the exceptional laxity of Florida’s concealed-carry laws significantly increased the odds that someone like George Zimmerman would kill someone like Trayvon Martin. He also believes rolling back such laws could be a winning issue for gun-regulation advocates.

All I’d add, which I often do, is that both in terms of the Zimmerman/Martin case and the gun issue generally, we ought to be asking Americans if they really want to be protected from crime by the police, or be forced to do it themselves or rely on the likes of George Zimmerman. If they think police resources are inadequate or their personnel are untrustworthy, let’s talk about fixing those problems, not throwing up our hands and engaging in an arms race with criminals we can never win.

Never forget: an important hallmark of a modern civilized society is a monopoly on the use of deadly force by public authorities under the supervision of laws, courts and elected officials. When we indulge in the barbarism of sanctioned private killing, we also inevitably encourage other forms of barbarism, like racism.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.