Sanford, Florida, is changing its rules about how citizens on neighborhood watch patrols will not be allowed to carry guns. If the town name sounds familiar, that's because it's the city where neighborhood watchman killed the unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
It seems like sanity reigns in a place where that has been in short supply. True, it's too little, too late for the past, but perhaps it will prevent further tragedies.
The new rules will be released at a community meeting on November 5. Official neighborhood watch citizens not only will not be permitted to carry a gun, they also will no longer even be allowed to pursue someone, even if they consider that person suspicious.
"Neighborhood watch was always intended to be a program where you observe what is going on and report it to police," said Shannon Cordingly, spokeswoman for the Sanford Police Department." In light of everything that has gone on, that's what we're really going to go back and push. That's what this program is and that's all it is,"
It's good to know that the very point of the neighborhood watch program will be reinforced to emphasize how it's about "watching," not being vigilantes. Still, I'd have preferred that the town was more concerned with preventing further tragedies than fixing bad PR.
"People in the community are nervous to join a group (the neighborhood watch program) that was tarnished in the media and got a bad image with everything that happened," Cordingly said. "We really want to put those fears to rest and get the community going on the program."
Let's understand something clearly: the neighborhood watch program wasn't "tarnished in the media." It was tarnished because a person in the program used it to become a vigilante. The problem isn't that it got a bad image." The problem is that a young, unarmed teenager got killed.
If this whitewashing what happened is what it takes to address the problem, so be it. But ignoring what happened is living in fantasyland. Which, given that they live in Florida is apparently much the same thing.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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