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WILTZ: Zimmerman case verdict consumes my thoughts

Over the years, I have been a staunch supporter of the armed citizen. I have also defended my life and the life of a friend with a handgun. Since that time, I have carried a handgun on a few occasions for self defense.

Finally, I grew up in a south-side Chicago neighborhood that smoldered with racial tension. For these reasons, and because nothing I have read about the George Zimmerman trial has given us anything worthwhile to ponder, I have decided to jot down my own thoughts.

George Zimmerman, a white man, was his Florida neighborhood's "watch" captain who carried a handgun while making his rounds. I don't doubt for a minute that Zimmerman may have been a bit overzealous about his position and authority.

Travon Martin was a 17-year-old African American high school student. Although it was not admissible in court, Martin had a very quick temper, according to close friends. When Zimmerman confronted Martin about the reason for his being in the neighborhood, tempers flared and a physical confrontation followed. Zimmerman ultimately shot Martin in self-defense. Whether or not it was justifiable is what the trial was about. Zimmerman was acquitted by a female jury.

Our distorted media turned the trial into a racial fiasco that reeked of reverse discrimination. Black comedian Jamie Foxx wore a T-shirt bearing Martin's image during a performance. Had a white comic worn a Zimmerman T-shirt, it would probably have been his last performance. It is a wonder that the jury was able to deliver any verdict at all, but so much for the distorted hype. What about the gun?

The Zimmerman trial has changed my thinking about carrying a gun. If and when Martin became angry with Zimmerman's questioning, Zimmerman should have retreated and kept retreating. Zimmerman had that option, an option that was a luxury in this situation. If and when you decide to carry a gun, think first about the situations you have elected to place yourself in.

When I was the Wagner High School principal, it was my job to get the money to the bank after an athletic contest. When Dale Hall was superintendent, we helped each other by following one another to the bank at a half block distance. It was a good plan. If the amount of money was excessive, and I was alone, I stashed a handgun under my vehicle's front seat and put it in my pocket when I left the vehicle with the money. I often think of the night Wagner played Armour in regional basketball, in which 3,200 fans packed the gym. Between the gate and concessions, I probably had $10,000 in small, unmarked bills.

Because of insight gained from the Zimmerman trial, I would leave my gun at home if I had those days to live over again. If a robber was armed, I'd toss him the money bag and retreat.

Sometimes retreat isn't an option. This might be true of a confrontation in your home. It might also be true if confined to a vehicle. Many years ago, a girlfriend and I were parked alongside a curb on the east side's Burnham Woods. Both of us had just come home for the summer from college.

A car pulled up behind us, flashed its high beam and repeatedly bumped bumpers. I suspected trouble and two men got out of the car. They came to my driver's side window and demanded that I turn over my passenger to them. I said "No!"

One of them immediately raised a crowbar. He was going to smash my windshield. I put a cocked Smith & Wesson .357 mag in his face, and I would have fired without hesitation. They left me no choice. Fortunately, they retreated.

Had I fired and killed that guy back then there would have been no trial, for these guys were white. It would have been a simple case of self-defense. Had the guy been black, racial riots would have further tormented Chicago's south side. Who knows what would have become of me.

Getting back to Zimmerman and his neighborhood watch, I don't believe Zimmerman was racially motivated to carry a gun. Martin happened to be black. If I were elected or if I volunteered to do "neighborhood watch" work today, I'd go out at night, and I'd either drive or walk. Instead of a gun, I'd carry a cell phone, and I'd have an auto-dial set, so all I had to do was push a button to get police intervention.

As previously mentioned, the Zimmerman trial has changed my thinking about carrying "deadly force." I will give carrying a gun more consideration before doing so. I suspect it has changed a lot of thinking, and hopefully, young Travon Martin did not die in vain.

See you next week.