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Thursday April 17th 2014

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Outtakes 4/19/12

NRA AND DURELL LIED The killing of Trayvon Martin has resurfaced discussions on racism. His death also brings to light the role a Northwest Florida lawmaker played in the passage of the “Stand Your Ground” law that gave Martin’s killer the confidence to follow and shoot the teenager.

Former State Sen. Durell Peaden (R-Crestview) should be charged as an accessory in Martin’s homicide. He sponsored the 2005 bill that empowered vigilantes like George Zimmerman to stalk their victims and shoot them when confronted. He created what has become a “hunting license” for cop wannabes like Zimmerman.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) wanted a law that gave immunity to any gun owner who felt threatened, wherever he was—home, yard or a street in a gated community—without having any obligation to retreat from the confrontation.

If the NRA could get one state to pass the law, then others would follow. A gullible lawmaker that had no fear of losing re-election was needed. Northwest Florida has always been the sweet spot of lobbyists. If they flash enough money or offer a plum legislative chairmanship, our state lawmakers whistle whatever tune is requested. The NRA had Peaden in their back pocket.

Sadly, Peaden based his sponsorship of the NRA-written bill on a lie. Peaden told his fellow lawmakers that the law was needed to protect people like James Workman, a 77-year-old Pensacola retiree who faced prosecution because he shot an intruder that had burst into his trailer in the weeks after Hurricane Ivan.

Tampa Bay Times reporter Ben Montgomery looked into the Workman case (Tampa Bay Times, “Was stand your ground law flawed from the beginning,” April 15) and found that Peaden had distorted the facts to help the bill pass by a 39-0 vote in the Senate and a 94-20 vote in the House.

The fact is that Workman was never arrested. The State Attorney’s Office ruled the shooting justified. However, Peaden and the NRA needed an emotional hook to justify their vigilante bill. “Shoot at Will” is not nearly as palatable as “Stand Your Ground.” When the gun manufacturers that bankroll the NRA can make millions, why should facts get in the way? Eventually more than two dozen other states enacted similar laws.

Peaden will have to answer for Trayvon Martin’s death on his day of reckoning, and the NRA won’t be there to throw a party for him, unless they have parties in hell.