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News & Features

Our Dumb State, Vol. 9

Shoot first, cry later

Photo: James Heimer, License: N/A

James Heimer


So, there you are in the belly of Florida's malnourished sense of decency, cradling your tumbler of self-medication and counting the seconds as they tick-tick-tick like a clock or a bomb, wondering what it all means. Florida was once home to immaculate motor lodges with swimming pools and all manner of aspirational escapism – now we've morphed into the bloat and blight of foreclosure and broken promises. A Fox

News correspondent stares at you from the wall, breaking down the Republican plan for Floridian domination via the I-4 Corridor, and hey, wait, isn't that where you live?

The thoughts go racing through your head: I survived Casey Anthony; I am not part of the bath-salt zombie apocalypse; I don't wanna "die quickly" (or do I?); can't we all just get along and stop being an embarrassment dressed up as a trailer park trapped in a snow globe?

And then, you realize where it all went awry. On Feb. 26, 2012, the television talking heads magically reappeared to dissect the state that science forgot. That was, of course, the day that one overzealous George Zimmerman – a self-proclaimed warlord of justice volunteering for a neighborhood-watch program in Sanford – went from being a nosy neighbor to a national figure, when he shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin after a dustup on the evening of the NBA All-Star game. Florida, conspicuously shaped like a firearm, was once again in the sights of global abhorrence. Why? Because Sanford police were initially afraid to arrest Zimmerman (despite overwhelming evidence that he acted against the instructions of the 911 dispatcher whom he had contacted; and, uh, there was an unarmed dead teenager whom Zimmerman clearly shot) due to the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law. The first of its kind, Florida's shoot first, judge later legislation came to life (or death) in 2005, assuring all responsible owners of guns that they could shoot first and ask questions later without fear of legal reprisal. Now similar laws prevail in 24 states. We're trendsetters!

Zimmerman was finally arrested after a national uproar, but he was released after posting bond. Then he was put right back in jail after a little "misunderstanding" involving a dual-passport/$135,000 Internet-fundraising schtick that might make you think he isn't the most honest person in the world. The whole situation has put Florida right in the spotlight – and the light is not very flattering for us. We're old, you see, and apparently too willing to forgive violence. Is this how we live now? What ever happened to the Magic Kingdom? Why aren't we sending postcards anymore? Where have all the seashells gone?

It's no secret the hold the gun lobby has over the overwhelmingly conservative Florida legislature – the National Rifle Association dropped nearly $1 million in Florida during the 2010 election cycle, and that doesn't include the lobbying pressure that pushes most legislators into dark corners of acquiescence – because guns are important. We should all have our manners of protection. We should all be allowed to pull a hammer back for our independence and liberty. We should all go to gun shows dressed like Sarah Palin and be granted our concealed-carry permits in 30 minutes (or less). It's the Floridian way!

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