Justice for Trayvon rallies were held across the nation after George Zimmerman's acquittal. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

In a piece at Truthdig, Sonali Kolhatkar writes that Florida has a chance to redeem itself after George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Another man is on trial for taking the life of another black male teenager in a similar case, and hopefully the criminal-justice system will work this time, she writes.

Nearly a year ago in Jacksonville, Michael Dunn, a 45-year-old white gun collector and software engineer, fired at least eight shots into a carful of teenagers after admonishing them about the volume of their music. Two of those shots hit and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis, an African-American boy.

Dunn, who has two more pretrial hearings next month, is using the Stand Your Ground law in his defense; it's the same one that Zimmerman, who shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin, initially invoked before his trial and subsequent acquittal. 

The law was originally crafted by the National Rifle Association and introduced to the American Legislative Exchange Council, which pushed it as a "model bill" in states around the country. The Florida version of the law passed in 2005. Although the measure allows people to use deadly force if they feel threatened regardless of whether they can safely leave the scene, it provides no clear definition of what constitutes a threat.

What that essentially means is free rein for gun owners to carry their weapons into any situation, shoot and later claim to have felt threatened even in the case of killing someone. This Wild West mentality has proven advantageous for older white gun users like Dunn, who have a greater chance than others of proving homicide justifiable according to studies like this one.


Read Sonali Kolhatkar's entire piece at Truthdig.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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