I know it’s after the fact and thus irrelevant to the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teen whom Mr. Zimmerman, an armed neighborhood watch volunteer, had pursued while the youth was returning to the condo his father’s fiancée rented in a gated Florida community, but one wonders why on earth a neighborhood watch volunteer was carrying a gun in the first place.
Thinking on that reminded me that armed “auxiliaries” were once proposed here.
The date of our first story on the subject appeared in the Sept. 22, 1977, issue, and was written by Val Schaffner.
Val was told that the Village Police Department (whose chief at the time had made the proposal) would “have to be very careful about recruiting.” The up to 15 armed volunteers, he was told, would help the 16-man force with crowd control at football games, parades, and at the L.V.I.S. Fair, and could come in handy as well should there be looting after a hurricane. And they, of course, would also aid the force in serving as its “eyes and ears.”
The next chief, Glen Stonemetz, thought better of arming the volunteers, though a letter writer warned at the time that if they weren’t, this place could well become “Home, Sweet Home for felons and lawbreakers.”
That letter was written in response to a column Arthur Roth had written, and I too received some volleys over the bow after adding my voice to the disarming side, one of which said, “Jack Graves’s ‘Point of View’ wherein he objects to the arming of auxiliaries, terming it ‘vigilantes’ and ‘vigilante antics,’ is a prime example of bias and ignorance. [. . .] On behalf of legitimate firearm owners, let me assure Mr. Graves that even his purple prose will not inspire any of us toward ‘vigilante antics.’ ”
I’m glad, some 35 years later, that that purple prose hasn’t. And I’m glad that the armed-auxiliary idea was ultimately deep-sixed here. Tragically, it wasn’t in Florida.