Cosby is not just an entertainment figure seeking to elevate his celebrity status by hitching a ride on a hot news story. At this point in his life and career, he is above and beyond that, and his thoughts on violent crime all the more relevant because he speaks from the perspective of personal tragedy. His son, Ennis, was shot to death in a roadside robbery where he had stopped to change a tire on his car in 1997.
The Martin case has reignited the national debate over gun control, the right of law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons, and especially the “Stand Your Ground” laws passed in Florida and two dozen other states that were passed to give legal protection to people who use deadly force to defend themselves if they feel threatened, without requiring them first to attempt to escape.
Critics of “Stand Your Ground” argue that ambiguous wording in those laws give people, in essence, a license to kill, and Martin’s shooter has become the symbol of what they say is wrong with the law.
Florida state officials last week appointed a 17-member task force to hold public hearings and make recommendations about whether changes in the law need to be made.
We hope the task force takes a rational and even-handed approach in their study of the subject. The anti-gun crowd relishes the emotionally charged atmosphere that follows in the wake of tragedy. Anti-gunners are ever ready for opportunities to incrementally chip away at the “right to keep and bear arms,” a liberty guarded by millions of law-abiding Americans who never have and never will use firearms to harm anyone.
To firearms owners, Cosby’s plea to get guns off the street sounds like a call to disarm people who abide by the law – which would leave them at the mercy of people who do not.
Florida eased its requirements for carrying concealed weapons in 1987 after a series of high-profile robberies and murders of out-of-state visitors along its interstate highways and tourist areas. It is a state with no state income tax where revenue comes from soaking tourists while they soak in the sunshine. There was an urgency to allow legal self-defense before “tourist season” took on a sinister new meaning.
A number of other states also passed legislation allowing concealed carry of handguns and, coincidentally, violent crime rates began dropping across the country — even in states that did not change their laws.
Perhaps “Stand Your Ground” needs another look, but we don’t think concealed carry rights should be rolled back.
We’re not defending the shooting of Trayvon Martin. That is a tragic, twisted case, and the full truth of what happened may never be known. But to use that tragedy as a tool to strip away the rights of law-abiding Americans would also be tragic.
Cosby tells us he chooses not to own a firearm. We respect his right to make that choice and we think he should respect the rights of his fellow citizens to make their own choices. And we wish Ennis Cosby had been armed on that Los Angeles roadside that night all those years ago. His story might have had a different ending. At least he would have had a chance.