A gun changes everything. Perhaps that's the lesson many Americans ought to take from the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. It's something we really need to think about.
I know of no one who isn't at least vaguely aware of the case. Last week, a jury in Florida acquitted George Zimmerman of charges in the teenage Martin's death. Jurors apparently accepted Zimmerman's contention that he had no choice but to use his gun when Martin began beating him up.
Well, that's the law. But behind it is this: Zimmerman did have a choice. When he spotted Martin in his neighborhood and decided the boy might be up to no good, Zimmerman could have stayed in his car and phoned police from there.
Instead, he got out and pursued Martin. He kept going even after a dispatcher told him to let the police handle it. And that led to a physical confrontation that left Martin shot to death by Zimmerman.
Would Zimmerman have gotten out of his car had he not been carrying a gun? Probably not. Would he have pursued a younger, bigger Martin had he not been armed? Almost certainly, no.
Consider the situation: If Martin indeed was bent on crime, he, too, might have been armed and dangerous. If not, like many teenage boys, he might well have done what he did in reacting angrily to Zimmerman's pursuit. Either way, Zimmerman should have expected a confrontation.
But he plowed ahead - because he had a gun.
Now, is this to say people watching out for their neighbors are wrong to carry guns? No. But it is to suggest that if you're going to do that, you'd better think about what may happen if you confront someone.
Frankly, I hope Zimmerman loses the civil lawsuit that is bound to be filed against him. He flunked what ought to be a basic test for concealed carry permits, of thinking about the potential consequences. Or, worse, perhaps he did think - but didn't care.
Perhaps a new requirement ought to be added for concealed carry permits. Applicants ought to have to view the dead body of a gunshot victim - and talk with the deceased's friends and relatives.
Is Zimmerman guilty? Yes - of lethal stupidity and immaturity, at the very least.
Myer can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.