I also wonder what would have needed to be different for the tragedy to be avoided, and apparently I'm not the only one. Ryan Grim, at the Huffington Post, wrote about six (or seven) things that could have changed the outcome of the Zimmerman/Martin encounter.
I was initially expecting the list to be things that Trevon Martin should have done differently. After all, it seems that society expects people of color to act impossibly innocent or be considered guilty by birth. What I didn't suspect was a rational list of what could have (and should have) been done to avoid an innocent death.
One of the things that jumped out at me was this suggestion:
4. If Zimmerman's weapon had not been hidden, Martin probably would have dealt with him differently.I live in the heart of gun culture. Every type of firearm that can legally be owned -- and some that can't be legally owned -- are all around me. It isn't uncommon for me to visit with someone that has an AK-47 in the front seat of their vehicle. In fact, there are very few vehicles on the road that don't have some kind of firearm in them. But the thought of switching from concealed carry permits to open carry permits simply for safety reasons? I hadn't thought of that.
When a man follows another, tensions rise. One way or another, those tensions led to a physical confrontation. But if Florida law barred concealed carry, Martin would have been able to see that Zimmerman was armed. Zimmerman defenders suspect Martin threw the first punch. But even if that's true, would he have done so if he knew Zimmerman was carrying a loaded weapon?
I realize that open carry brings on a different set of problems. When someone is carrying a firearm in the open it is much more likely to be taken away from them. That could put them and those around them in more danger from people bent on committing acts of violence. At the same time, people that aren't intent on committing acts of violence can see that the person carrying a firearm is actually supporting a dangerous and potentially unstable condition through their choices.
I hate the thought of open carry laws being the best solution to protect ourselves from the gun nuts, but perhaps that is what we are reduced to. It would have probably saved at least one innocent life, and it could hardly make things more dangerous for the people of color that just want to live their lives in peace.
Of course there is a better solution. We could have better safety laws for firearms, better background checks, and fewer concealed or open carry laws. We could update our expectations from the wild west and bring society into the modern age. We could set up a society where everyone doesn't have to look at their fellow humans and wonder whether they are out to kill them or not.
Hmm, that seems like the best solution to me. Let's make a society where we are all safe and we don't have to fear that our neighbors are out to kill us. Let's create a society where firearms aren't brandished as a sign to tell those around us that we are ready, able, and willing to kill them regardless of whether it is right or wrong. It may be true that if George Zimmerman had telegraphed his intentions to kill Trevon Martin by openly carrying his gun that Trevon Martin might be alive today. But the better solution is to remove the gun from the equation all together.