Protest in New York City’s Union Square against the killing of Trayvon Martin. Francis Reynolds/The Nation
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush endorsed Mitt Romney Wednesday, earning national headlines as an elder statesman of a Grand Old Party that is still trying to wrap its head around the concept of Romney as a presidential nominee.
It is a measure of the extent to which media and political players absolve those who make laws from any responsibility for the impact of the legislation they enact and sign that Romney—who has so meticulously avoided discussing the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida—would casually accept the backing of the signer of the “Stand Your Ground” law that so many reasonable observers believe played a role in Trayvon’s death.
The 17-year-old Florida youth was apparently hunted down and shot by a “neighborhood watch” gunman while Trayvon was returning from a trip to a nearby 7-11 store. The gunman, George Zimmerman, was reportedly of the belief that he had been given what was effectively a license to kill by Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Police in Sanford, Florida, apparently shared that view, as they decided against arresting and charging the shooter.
The Florida “Stand Your Ground” law was enacted in 2005 with bipartisan support by Republican-controlled houses of the legislature. The National Rifle Association led the advocacy on behalf of the proposal, arguing that it was needed to provide immunity to gunmen who might use deadly force against unarmed individuals who they imagine to be threatening.
The “Stand Your Ground” legislation was sponsored by Florida state Representative Dennis Baxley and state Senator Durell Peadon, both Republican ally of Jeb Bush. The governor quickly signed the measure into law—despite explicit and repeated warnings that this law would encourage shootings of innocents like Trayvon Martin. And despite explicit and repeated warnings that people of color and young people would be unreasonably and disproportionately harmed by the law.
Baxley and Peadon worked closely with NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer to pass the Florida law, and Hammer appeared with Bush at the signing ceremony.
But the process did not stop on Tallahassee, where the vote was taken.