Today we’ll no doubt see more of the courtroom dog and pony show from Florida that seems to preoccupy every reputable news network in the US (as well as MSNBC). So let’s look at that, and talk about a couple of things that could cause us some problems. In order to do so, we are going to set aside any of the visceral issues surrounding the Zimmerman trial. We’ll ignore the guilty-even-if-proven-innocent pre-trial ridiculosity of plastic cowboy-hat wearing idiots who may or may not be named Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. We’ll disregard all the stupendously inappropriate and reactionary pro-riot tweets threatening public mayhem and murder if the outcome of the trial isn’t a conviction of the accused. Why? Because some of what we’re seeing could conceivably be a problem for us in the future, regardless of how the trial turns out.
Today’s guest article is courtesy of Stephen Pineau, and he brings up some things we could all stand to talk about. This is one horrifically litigious society, full of ass-hats who are either willfully obtuse or just moronic. When condition of carry and the make/model of a firearm become the topic of clueless journalists, when semantics become lawsuit-altering issues, how long before it becomes an issue in the courtroom? How long before it affects a citizen who carries a gun every day?
Reflections on the Zimmerman Trial
I am not writing this article as an instructor or an ‘industry guy’. I am certainly not writing as a lawyer or to provide any legal advice. I am merely writing this to convey the thoughts of a shooter – a gun guy that watches the news. The results of pondering what we’ve seen in that courtroom, if you will.
The George Zimmerman trial is by no means over; much is yet to be heard and seen from both sides of the courtroom. However, a few issues have been brought to light, on the stand and in the media, that give me pause as a concealed carry holder. What follows are my reflections on a few of these issues – nothing more. This is not research-based, nor is it meant to be persuasive. All I hope to accomplish by writing this is to provoke open discussion amongst the training community and the law-abiding concealed carry permit holders that exercise their Constitutional right to self-defense.
Initially, questions were raised about Zimmerman’s firearm – specifically the make, model and caliber. This is of no surprise to me; people are just looking for information. However, what I did find interesting is that Zimmerman’s ‘condition of carry’ was called into question. By all accounts, Zimmerman was carrying his firearm, a Kel-Tec PF9 with a loaded magazine and a round in the chamber (see: normal). Carrying a firearm in this condition is undisputed amongst a typically divided community of professional firearms trainers. This level of ‘readiness’ is considered to be correct and is advocated by most if not all instructors.
This issue was initially raised in the media circus following the case and found its way into courtroom discussion soon thereafter. Though one could argue that the media’s spin on things (though that is always a possibility –the Duo) is largely inconsequential to the outcome of the case in either direction, let’s consider this…
If the media managed to take issue with the condition of carry of Zimmerman’s firearm, something that is universally agreed upon as being the norm, then where does that leave guys like me? You? Consider this: the media nearly took issue with the fact that his firearm did not come equipped with a manual safety (GASP), but then quickly dismissed the issue in light of the weapon’s long, 4-3/4 pound, double-action only trigger pull. Now, I don’t know about you, but MY carry firearm doesn’t have either one of those. While my doesn’t daily carry pistol does not have a ‘trick’ trigger, it certainly isn’t a long, heavy, DAO pull. The trigger weight and travel is slightly better than average for a striker-fired handgun and the pistol is without a manual safety.
With that in mind, I took a deeper look at the issue. If Zimmerman nearly took fire for his personal handgun, the Kel-Tec PF9, what would the media (or God forbid, a jury) say about my handgun? While the contested Kel-Tec PF9 barely qualifies as a firearm in my regard, I’m over here with a $2,000 M&P in my pants; slide serrations, grip texturing, trigger work, a “chop job”, backup sights AND an optic. I love this gun and it shoots incredibly well; I carry it every day and teach with it up to six times a month. Put a snapshot of this thing in an evidence bag on the desk of some hack journalist, however, and watch them wet their pants. A jury would think this was a Star Wars prop. It wouldn’t be a great day for me.
When State’s witness John Good testified, “I saw the darker man on the top, and the lighter man on the bottom…it appeared to be an MMA-style ground and pound”, everyone believed it was the final nail in the prosecution’s coffin. However, the manner in which this was phrased soon came back as a major issue following the testimony of physicians assistant (PA), Lindzee Folgate. Folgatewent on-record saying that George Zimmerman had been training at a Mixed Martial Arts gym as often as 3-times a week for the past month as a part of his physical fitness routine. Suddenly, the perception became that a grounded, entangled fisticuffs was right in Zimmerman’s wheelhouse. The tone of the hearings dramatically shifted as a result.
Again, this is something that gives me pause. Quite clearly, a reasonable person can understand that just because you attended an MMA school does not make you Urijah Faber. Perhaps he was attending the school because he had acknowledged how bad of a fighter he actually was. In reality, that is neither here nor there but what is known is that the defense must make this point very clear to six (in Florida juries are made of six individuals) very average people.
Why does this matter to you or I? I am a training junkie, and I would suspect the same about most who read this article. Defensive training, whether it be with firearms, edged weapons, less-lethal tools, or combatives, is just as my hobby as it is my livelihood. As I listened to the court proceedings, I couldn’t help but put myself in Zimmerman’s position; a concealed carry holder who many believe made a few bad choices, at least, leading up to a tragic event. By most accounts however he was involved in a righteous self-defense shooting, unfortunately doing so in the absence of any clear eye-witnesses. Could this be me caught dirty in a bad situation gone worse? Sure. Could it be you? Who is to say it couldn’t? But with a training résumé (let alone occupation) such as mine, what is a jury going to say if I emerge victorious from a violent encounter?
What is the legal or social point of diminishing return when it comes to training? Certainly a jury would likely hang an untrained concealed carrier from the highest tree. However, what about one who trains non-stop? How much training is too much?
Is there such a thing as training too much, or (more to the point) could it be portrayed that way?
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