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Trayvon Martin - Why we must care


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By now I would expect that anyone who has watched or read a bit of news in the last few weeks has heard of Trayvon Martin, the 17 year old black teenager gunned down by a "Neighborhood Watch" member while walking home with skittles, ice tea, and a phone he was using to call his girlfriend.

If you've looked into this at all, you've found that the shooter, Zimmerman still remains free, and that in the last few months he's made numerous calls to 911 about suspicious people in his neighborhood. More than likely you've also found that every single of those calls for which the 911 tapes have been released involved him calling in about a black person behaving 'suspiciously'. Most likely you've also heard he wasn't arrested because of a so-called "Stand Your Ground" law that allows gun owners to shoot down anyone that they feel threatens them.

Unless you're black, why should you care? Because it is only a matter of time until a gay man ends up dead and his shooter walks away free under this law. Think about it for a moment. Have you ever heard of gay panic? It's where a 'straight' person panics at a gay man making a pass at him, feels threatened and uses violence against the gay person.

How long is it going to be before this law helps someone hunting down gay people from walking away free by claiming they were threatened when they gay person made a pass at them?

Zimmerman on the phone to 911 right before he shot Trayvon Martin said very faintly 'f*ck*ng c**n'. The 911 operator immediately asked 'Are you following him?" When Zimmerman said "Yeah", the 911 operator said "Okay, we don't need you to do that". After that, Zimmerman went on to shoot and kill the 17 year old black boy who was 'acting suspiciously' by walking home.

What happens when it is a gay slur involved there instead of a racial slur, and a gay man who looked at a gun owner weird?

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Zimmerman's paranoia is likely a direct result of the fear engendered by the likes of the shock jocks on radio and TV.

As gay people, subjected, as we have been for so many centuries, to open hostility and ridicule, we should care about this case and others, but we also must not allow this to degenerate into our becoming as paranoid as the gun toting, psychotic man in this incident.

Yes, we should exercise caution and care for our safety, but look at the circumstances of this confrontation and it becomes apparent that no one could have prepared themselves to contend with such a situation.

The American right to bear arms could easily see more people arm themselves in case they find themselves confronted by a psychotic product of the fear-mongers. The resultant shoot-outs will not solve the problems of menace, mistrust, of feeling threatened, of being threatened. All that will happen is that we end up threatening or killing each other when danger does not exist.

It is all too easy to jump onto the horse and go looking for a posse to hunt down the innocent suspects. That is what the mob does, and the gun-toting mob frightens me more than the lone psycho. Such fear must not be allowed to run our lives, or we too, will end up becoming paranoid, too frightened to live.

I've been bashed, stabbed, home invaded and yet I remain unarmed. I took precautions to increase the safety of my home from invasion, and I try to avoid those dark streets where I know danger lurks as the shadows of human waste, but I won't give in to fear to not live my life, encouraging love and freedom.

Sadly, no one could have prepared themselves to adequately escape the situation that Trayvon found himself confronting. Zimmerman had no need to confront the youth, no need to 'stand his ground' and as far as we can tell, no need to discharge his gun.

If Trayvon had been armed, would that have protected him from the trigger happy Zimmerman? I doubt it very much.

We must fight and defend our right to live, not by taking up arms, but by daring to declare we don't need to fear each other. I would rather be shot for loving, than die from the wounds of fear. That's not living that's the death of the human will to love, and insanity is its shroud.

We are burying more than a youth if we let fear make us as paranoid as Trayvon's shooter is; we bury our demands to be seen as loving human beings.

Productively, we need to overturn the 'stand your ground' laws. We need to address the right to bear arms law in a way that will remove the threat of vigilante murder. Most importantly we need to work to defuse the power of the shock and fear merchants, whilst maintaining rational discussion about real threats to our freedoms.

How do we do these things? I don't know, but we do need to try to find better ways than arming everyone with fear...and guns.

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Unless you're black, why should you care? Because it is only a matter of time until a gay man ends up dead and his shooter walks away free under this law. Think about it for a moment. Have you ever heard of gay panic? It's where a 'straight' person panics at a gay man making a pass at him, feels threatened and uses violence against the gay person.

Dan, while I agree with the overall intention of your post (and I'm following the story on the Internet), I found the highlighted statement, and the implication disturbing. It could be a cultural thing, but I would have thought that many people would care regardless of race or sexuality. Certainly, from here in Australia the fact that Trayvon was black is only relevant as a possible motive for his killer - as far as I'm concerned it gives no justification for that killing at all. I can accept that you want to highlight the issue before it's used as a defense to kill someone who is gay, but I don't see why anyone would need that as an added reason to be concerned.

One thing that is painfully clear from what I've read is that there is a great deal of uncertainty as to exactly what happened when the young boy was killed. The people defending Zimmerman claim he was attacked first, pointing out his injuries, while those condemning him point out that there appeared to be no corresponding marks on Trayvon Martin's body (eg. no bruised on his fists if he had hit Zimmerman). Personally, I think Zimmerman is in the wrong and I'm hoping the evidence will be found to support that (assuming it's the truth). But my (imperfect) understanding of the law in question makes it extremely difficult to overturn a plea of self-defence if there are no witnesses. Zimmerman claims self-defence, and Trayvon is dead, so unless there is evidence that it wasn't self-defence, Zimmerman will go free - something that may be legally correct, but from my point of view is morally wrong.

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The point is probably cultural - but it is one seen far too often (at least in the United States). If it doesn't affect someone directly, then they don't really care. They see a black kid dead on the sidewalk and make noises about how tragic it is, but don't feel any connection. Make the dead kid a latino and you get the latino community up in arms, but the black community often just shrugs. Change the race of the kid and you can expect to see a change in the way the case is viewed.

A lot of the times, as a community we let ourselves be focused on issues that we only think affect us - like the cruise ship arrest and that's to be expected. What I'm trying to point out is that this story really does impact us as a community and should be taken as a warning sign that in states like Florida, simply making a pass at someone is now more likely to result in your being killed and your killer walking away without even once being behind bars.

Since the 'stand your ground' law went into effect, Florida has seen justified homicides increase by 283% . This is "Wild West" justice when men carried guns and used them against each other and it is something we should be wary of if we live in or travel to the United States. It's kind of like one of Gee Whillicker's stories where you see the warning signs developing. You can ignore them, or watch them get worse.

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Thanks, Dan. I was afraid that that would be the response, but, sadly, it's very much part of human nature to ignore things that don't affect us directly. That doesn't mean that people will always ignore such, but it's not an unusual behaviour. I had hoped that the killing of a teenager would suffice to shift people out of their complacency, but.... :sad:

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Discrimination is everywhere. It isn't whether we ignore the signs or not, but whether we can see them. World wide we see an increase in disassociation from compassion, from empathy and our humanity. Our economic systems are demanding that we regard ourselves as 'things' to be used by whatever society in which we live. Our political structures are prone to corruption for personal gain, and our religions are out of touch with reality.

In this atmosphere it is not surprising that the dog eat dog syndrome should arise at the expense of our natural tendency to live and let live. We have created a culture (Wild West in nature if you like) that is corrupting our humanity, our survival of the fittest is being replaced by the survival of each of us becoming the most culturally useful 'thing'. The individual is being replaced by the automaton and the culture demands that we all do what is best for its survival - not humanity's survival, and not our individual survival, but just the culture.

Naturally, the individual rebels, and should rebel (without arms or violence), but such rebellion must be against the culture's inhumanity. At the moment America is arming itself. See this link, and while it is claimed that the increase in gun sales are due to a fear of Obama winning re-election, it is one of those danger signs that could enable the scenario of fear based vigilante gun shootouts at the OK Corral; only this time the corral is in suburban America's back yards or the streets of its cities. The 'Stand Your Ground' law will quickly degenerate into the demand of 'stand and deliver'.

What should be an unarmed rebellion against injustice, loss of individual freedom, and a stand against corruption, looks like it could become a revolution which replaces one corrupt culture with an even more oppressive one, probably theocratic influenced by interpretations of the Abrahamic religions, and gays everywhere will be amongst the casualties.

Too bleak a picture? Too paranoid a prediction? Wasn't this prophetically part of the Dreams of Humanity/Father?

I seriously doubt armed conflict can be avoided at this stage, and that makes this whole discussion much more concerning, frightening.

And yet such fear feeds the possibility of conflict, and is why we must realise that, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." -FDR

Just one incident like the Trayvon Martin shooting is enough to be the spark of something that should never happen, and we must all work to make sure it doesn't.

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This is one liberal that is actually considering buying a gun again because of the conservatives...but fortunately there are a lot better liberals out there who are pushing and guiding the responses to the Trayvon Martin murder into non-violent protests. They say 'leave your guns at home - they are part of the problem and the answer is peaceful protest, not more violence'.

Let's just hope their message of peaceful protest takes root and stays strong.

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Yeah, I saw that and was disgusted. The answer isn't to increase the violence. They's more a them 'n us!

The protests that did the most good were Dr. M.L. King's and he preached nonviolent protest. That works because it makes people think instead of react.

We don't know all the facts in this case yet. Hopefully, in a couple weeks, we will. We DO know that if Zimmerman hadn't pursured Trayvon, none of this would have happened. Stand Your Ground law or not, he precipitated the incident.

C

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There are so many facets to this, and watching the story unfold is a lesson in spin and marketing (The Zimmerman defense appears awfully porous and interestingly timed at this point). But I want to touch on one aspect of this that I'm hearing a lot more of in the past few days, mostly from US media but elsewhere too. And that's guns.

I must admit, I don't understand, at all, the american thinking about guns. About the divisiveness of this issue, the slogans and the side-taking. I find it confusing. And odd. And puzzling.

I suspect it's a matter of different history and culture. Maybe some of you can help enlighten me. I'm awfully liberal in my thinking. If I were an American I would be Democrat or, equally likely, some other left wing party except other parties have no power at all under the US system. However, I've shot guns since I was ten or eleven years old. I've owned guns. I don't happen to own any now, not counting a small CO2 target practice pistol, but that's not because of a political stance. I know even many of my fellow Canadians have a different viewpoint on this than I do, but to me it's never been a particularly political decision. Guns fall into the same category as knives. Or axes. Or even cars. A technological tool that can be used for many purposes, including hurting other human beings.

Now, I'm not naive. I'm well aware of the issues of "primary purpose" and protection and the difference between offensive and defensive weapons and likliehood of the need for other uses in an urban environment, etc, etc. But I'm missing something. Just because a person is an American Democrat, it seems to me, why should that preclude them from feeling it is wise or moral to own a gun? There's lots of good reasons for not owning a gun, including having kids, general safety, the chances of it being used against you, the chances of it contributing to false security, the "increased rather than decreased risk" factor when guns are involved in a confrontation, etc. But these are logical issues, rational decisions based on a given person's comfort and familiarity with a tool rather than a political stance. I don't own any dynamite either. Not because I'm against dynamite, but because I'd probably blow myself sky-high out of stupidity. If I had a need for it, I'd get myself trained up, learn how to deal with it safely, then head out to the dynamite store.

So my fellow North American continent occupants, help enlighten me. What the heck is it with you guys and guns?

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I can't begin to do justice to this complex social and psychological and political issue that permeates our culture, Gee. Where I live now it is even more clouded--absolutely muddied--by some kind of weird subtext concerning constitutionality as seen through the lens of the Civil War, no less.

So I won't try, except to say that one of the key differences I see among my acquaintences in their attitudes toward guns and gun ownership, above and beyond their individual political biases, is whether they grew up in a rural setting or in a city-town-suburban environment. Guns, for a country boy like me, have always been a tool, necessary for varmint control, crop protection, putting down an animal in dire straits, and for both sport and subsistence hunting. This, I believe, is in line with your own experience as you describe it. Guns are not inherently "evil" although some manifestations of this form of weaponry are either fairly useless (such as many of the handguns if used for the applications I've touched upon) or grotesque (most versions of automatic or military weapons, most thankfully illegal). Country folk respect guns, teach their kids to respect guns, and use guns mostly in their working relationships with nature.

People born and raised in American cities and their suburbs, however, have a much different experience of guns; one which I have not shared except late in life and without the essential early and continual exposure to gun threat or serious gun-bearer violence. I cannot speak knowledgeably from this point-of-view, and must leave it to others to expand on the real danger of guns as killing machines.

What I do recognize is that we have entered an era where many elements of the general population are essentially out of control. 'Civilization' is breaking down, and concern by individuals for the well-being of others is disappearing in many settings and situations. I believe that guns add a sinister and potentially devastating variable to many of the circumstances we encounter more and more in today's society. I have reluctantly come to believe that public safety can only be achieved through rigid and relentless gun control--if only we could agree on what should consititute that control. I an beginning to think we will not be safe until we get rid of all the guns. I am afraid of what that means for the rural countryside.

James

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Almost all gun control in this country has been focused on handguns and military weapons, viz. assault rifles. Banning those would have little to do with rifles in the hands of hunters and or rural habitants.

What I don't understand is why the second ammendment gets dragged through the dirt whenever this disucssion comes up. If you want to rile most Americans, tell them one of their basic rights, one that's guaranteed in the Constition, is under attack. You get pretty close to unanimity against such a proposition with that argument. So, if someone talks about banning handguns, that's the defense. Yet the second ammendment doesn't say a word about handguns. They could be entirely abolished and the second ammendment would continue as it always has.

I feel the country would be safer withing handguns, and certainly without assault rifles. Sure, there's the old argument that if we outlaw handguns, only the crooks will have them. But that's sophistry. They already have them and most of us don't. But if they were illegal, we could make the penalties for both possessing them and selling them much more onerous.

C

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What I don't get is why a member of a Neighborhood Watch patrol has to be carrying a gun. There's no reason to do so. My aunt and uncle and cousin live in a big townhouse development in Southern California. My uncle is on the Neighborhood Watch, and he told my dad that he is stunned and mystified that the Neighborhood Watch would allow one (or perhaps many more!) of their members to go armed. This is an expensive gated community. Is it so unsafe that people have to walk around armed with handguns? Zimmerman's attorney has said he's not a "Rambo" but I have to disagree; that's exactly the role he seemed to want to play.

There are two words in Neighborhood Watch. The first is "Neighborhood" -- the area where people want to be safe. The second is, in my opinion, the key word: "Watch" -- watch for anything that might be unusual or amiss then call the police and let them handle the situation.

I just don't understand.

Colin :icon_geek:

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This video of George Zimmerman arriving at the police station on the night of the shooting has now been released. http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/george-zimmerman-police-surveillance-16024475

Remember, he claimed Trayvon Martin attacked him, slamming his head on the sidewalk, breaking his nose. Does this man look like he was just beaten severely with blood flowing from his nose and the back of his head? Every time I've seen the video so far, I've grown more ashamed that this is the country I live in.

The fact that his father is retired judge only makes this even more reprehensible.

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The banning of hand guns and assault rifles would be a great thing for America.

Personally, while I agree with you in principle, I also disagree on practical grounds. It's too late - there's too many guns in the community for them to be banned. That's not even counting Constitutional issues. For better or worse, the USA has to accept the level of gun ownership they currently have, and work out how to manage it. They can adjust the ownership levels to a small degree, but it's effectively impossible to make a significant change.

Just my opinion, of course :icon1:

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Zimmerman's paranoia is likely a direct result of the fear engendered by the likes of the shock jocks on radio and TV.

As gay people, subjected, as we have been for so many centuries, to open hostility and ridicule, we should care about this case and others, but we also must not allow this to degenerate into our becoming as paranoid as the gun toting, psychotic man in this incident.

I object a little bit, only in that there are many different levels of "shock jocks" in the U.S. Howard Stern (as one example) is very pro-gay, particularly for gay rights and gay marriage, and is very outspoken about how angry he is about the Florida kid being shot. But I concede there are others who also carry the same "shock" mantle who just mouth off on every hot news item, just in an attempt to get ratings.

I grew up in the south, about 100 miles away from the shooting, and the redneck attitude of a lot of people outside the big cities is really scary. The shooter was a total nutcase, a wannabe cop who got carried away, and it's awful how things have steamrolled to this level. I'm stunned that the chief of police wouldn't immediately put the killer away; to me, if it's not obvious that somebody is carrying a weapon and getting ready to do you harm, the "stand your ground" law should not apply.

It's also a very dangerous law, because it forces people to make a judgement call on things that look like a weapon. I'm reminded of cops who have shot little kids in dark alleys because they were carrying water pistols or a shiny object. And we've had several incidents here in LA where cops have confronted somebody suspicious who refused to put their hands on their heads and/or lay down on the ground, then they made a sudden move. Under those conditions, I understand why a cop would choose to shoot first. But not a private citizen.

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DKStories, I see no signs in that video of the reported broken nose, and no obvious grass stains on the back of his jacket, also in some reports.

Not a drop of blood to be seen on his clothing.

The resolution of the video is not helpful, but the demeanour of the man is not one of a recently injured person.

How on earth did the the video get released? I would have thought it would have been impounded as evidence after the fact.

I've also seen ushers in a cinema be more aggressive in directing where people should go than the police officers in this video, as Zimmerman strolls around the station with only his hands in cuffs.

Note too, that he leans his back against the wall at one point, so I guess that must have transferred those grass stains from the back of his jacket to the wall. Yeah, right.

I also see no sign of the reported injury to the back of his head.

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The right to bear arms makes only slightly more sense to me than the right to arm bears. Was that Woody Allen? Can't remember. Anyway, from this side of the big pond, the US view that it is every citizen's right to arm himself for the protection of his family or property, baffles us. While it's true that gun legislation doesn't stop criminals from using them, the facts show that the proliferation of guns result in the proliferation of gunshot wounds. Here in the UK it is rare to see a gun. The police don't carry them except in limited circumstances (in airports, for instance, for some reason). Farmers often have shotguns, but as a percentage of the population, farmers are a tiny minority. The last time I touched a gun was on a rifle range when I was a schoolboy. I think I've seen guns more recently, but can't remember when. They just don't figure in life. I would be shocked to learn that a neighbour owned one. Life goes on, we don't generally complain that we're not allowed to carry guns(!) and very few of us suffer gunshot wounds. So why, we wonder, do Americans feel that their individual liberty and rights are wrapped up with gun ownership? We scratch our heads.

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I haven't been around much the last couple of weeks or so. I'm still trying to get my life back in order after my grandmother's passing, and...something's just gotta give once in a while.

I have been avoiding the news in general, but I'd seen headlines about Trayvon Martin. Then, a friend's post at another forum got me to respond.

She was angry, rightly so, about the Trayvon Martin case. But she had seen a photo that brightened her day a lot. It was a black and white photo of several boys, many sizes and ethnicities, all wearing hoodies, titled, "All our sons wear hoodies," with the obvious outrage of many mothers that a teenage boy, someone's son much like their son, could be killed on such a flimsy claim. Because it could have been their son.

Most of us know that teenage boys often hang around, just spending time not doing much specific, and not particularly causing trouble, or not particularly not causing trouble either, but not meaning real harm, usually. This does not make them gangsta thugs or hoodlums. It makes them teenage boys.

Kids may walk from the bus stop to their homes or friends' places. School kids in my area do this every school day, and I, not a parent, hope they make it safe to wherever they're going. At night, kids might also walk to a friend's or to the corner store or what have you. This is normal, ordinary, plain, and innocent.

It is just fine to go grab a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea (Snapple? Lipton's?) and call your girlfriend. Or perhaps your boyfriend, if you're so inclined. There is nothing in itself wrong with wearing a hoodie.

I am not a teen. I'm a very pale white guy. My paleness is as much an accident of nature (helped by my work and off-work habits) as is the darkest tanned white person or darkest tanned black person.

I happen to wear hoodies when it's cold or wet enough. They're comfortable and cheap. The past few months, I haven't been shaving too regularly, so sometimes I look scruffy. However, I do clean up well, and my default has always been close to the yuppie/preppie business casual computer geek look anyway. But yes, I sometimes wear a hoodie rather than another jacket. Right now, we've entered spring and summer weather, the hot and alternately dry and rainy season. I'm from Texas, and Florida's climate registers as normal for me. (I'm not in Florida.)

You know what? I have no reason to believe Trayvon Martin was doing anything he shouldn't have been. (Don't know him or his family or friends.) From all descriptions, he was a decent young man with a bright future. But you know what else? I don't care if he wasn't the perfect model citizen teenager. So what if he was goofing around any or taking his time going from the store back home. So what if he was calling his girlfriend. So what if he wasn't perfect. I don't have any reason to believe he was doing one thing or another that any other teenage boy might do on the way back and forth from a trip to the store. So if he was walking and talking, or waiting a little while on the phone, so what? This is also normal, not just for adolescent young men, but for anybody. Trayvon does not have to be a model of perfection here. It was not necessary to kill him. If he wasn't threatening anyone, and seems to have been trying very much to avoid being a threat, then let him be...and be thankful he's living his life like the rest of us. Too bad the shooter didn't do that.

This is my long way of saying, what happened to Trayvon Martin is intolerable, and we can't let that happen to other kids, regardless of the amount of tan of their skin, or lack of it, and regardless of how they are dressed.

Zimmerman? His history indicates he was often actively looking for "suspicious persons" or "suspicious teens" or "suspicious black youths" to chase, a desire to make himself some sort of hero. He didn't get to be the hero when he did what he did, now did he? I don't buy Zimmerman's claims or claims against Trayvon Martin's character. I hope Zimmerman gets a real trial. I hope the police department there is investigated and has to own up to whatever shortcomings they may have, if they do have a history of letting some things slide on a selective basis.

Many, many people are no longer so narrow-minded as Zimmerman appears to be. Many police officers and others in the legal system would not accept or excuse things for the good old boys, or for people like Zimmerman.

Rabble-rousing, though, offering bounties for Zimmerman's death -- is no different in principle than Zimmerman's own lust for vigilante justice, to be the hero.

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The second ammendment, we are discussing: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Forget the guns for a moment, what did the forefathers really say here? What is a militia? At the moment they are a bunch of idiots with guns that are hiding from the FBI because they plot to overthrow the government, at least that is the popular feeling. When did we lose track of the "well regulated" part of this statement?

I think there are many in this country that would agree that the Supreme Court is out of control. The current guns laws are due to their ignorant intrepretation of the constiution. But Presidents get to appoint the Supremes and G.W. Bush gave us some real nasty candidates. If there are any good examples of why we should have term limits in American government then the Supreme Court is a gold mine of opportunity.

The American constituion, like the Bible, is a document in need of a major overhaul. But unfortunately we don't trust our politicans to do that job. If something like a constituional convention were called today we would have entirely too many idiots trying to assert Biblical concepts into the mix....and I would be applying for Canadian citizenship.

But back to the guns. Anyone who owns a gun should be held accountable for the use of that weapon. If the gun commits a crime then the owner must pay the penalty for not being in control of the damn thing. The only true sense of justice would come if someone was killed with the gun and the owner was given a lethal injection. Doesn't matter how or why, if you lose track of your gun you pay the price...period.

Otherwise I have a John Donne kind of suggestion. Anyone who kills another person with a gun should be required to eat them. Bon Appetite.

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Something is wrong. My previous post had numerous gibberish control characters inserted by "something", so I tried to delete the post. Unfortunately, there is no DELETE feature/button, so I had to substitute the previous post with this explanation.

Sadly, this is exactly encouraging me to post on AD forums, unless someone can actually figure out why this is happening and correct it.

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Trab, you should have left the post up and emailed Mike so he could figure out what was going on. In any case, don't stop posting. Like Cole said, we've missed having your posts here.

Colin :icon_geek:

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