Before I begin, I want to make it clear this is NOT commenting on the Martin/Zimmerman situation, nor is this to be taken as some sort of commentary in support of or against one party or the other. I am only using the situation as a vehicle to discuss a topic, because 1. the constant use of “unarmed” in all media reports about it (and the ignorance behind those statements) 2. that this article came up and motivated me to write.
In the Martin/Zimmerman case, one of the common mantras was that Zimmerman was armed and Martin was unarmed. The media desire in this mantra is to imply that this was all unfair, that Zimmerman was somehow worse because Martin didn’t also have a “dueling pistol”, or some other disparity implied by the gun or lack thereof. That somehow someone without a third-party weapon is somehow defenseless and can’t inflict harm, or enough harm to warrant someone using a gun and using deadly force in reply.
I find this ludicrous, tho not totally without some merit.
First, there seems to be some belief that an unarmed person — that is, a person armed with only their bare hands — cannot inflict damage or cannot kill someone.
You’ve never watched boxing or UFC have you? Or for that matter, just fire up YouTube, because there’s zillions of fight videos on there. Some might be schoolyard beatings captured on someone’s phone camera. Others are closed-circuit footage. There’s lots out there. And once you opt to remove your blinders and see life for what it really is, you’ll see that yes, bare hands can kill.
It happens more than twice a day, on average. Fists and feet were responsible for 745 murders in 2010, or 5.7 percent of all murders that year, according to FBI statistics. (The data on this have been remarkably stable in recent years. In the five preceding years, the percentage of murders perpetrated by fists or feet fluctuated between 5.6 and 6.1.) It doesn’t even take an experienced brawler to punch someone to death: An 11-year-old California girl appears to have killed a classmate with her bare hands in a February fistfight.
So to say that someone being unarmed is not dangerous or potentially at some sort of advantage, that having their fists reigning blows, having their feet stomping heads into pavement… that this couldn’t possibly be a problem? I don’t buy it.
We also need to look at situations. If a woman is being raped and her attacker has only his bare hands, are you going to seriously say that her using a gun to defend herself would be wrong? If an elderly person being kicked and beaten by an attacker used a gun to defend themselves, that’s somehow wrong?
But this is why I said there could be some merit, because it could be a matter of force disparity. A 100# woman being attacked by a 300# man, a 89-year-old person being attacked by a teenager, it’s arguable based upon those physical factors that there’s enough disparity. In a case like Zimmerman and Martin, it seems to be implied that Zimmerman was a big healthy male and Martin was a little wimpy teenager… at least, so were the initial reports, with accompanying photos. But as more details came out, Martin wasn’t exactly a little guy, and just because Zimmerman was in his 30’s doesn’t mean he’s automatically at some advantage. In this particular case the devil’s in the details and has to be worked out in court.
What I wish to stress here is the fallacy that “unarmed” somehow equates to defenseless or without ability to inflict serious harm. That merely because your attacker is “unarmed” that they couldn’t cause you grave harm and put you in fear of your life. Yes, actual instances of death appear to be rare, but possible. But do you really want to be the statistical anomaly? This does not change matters when it comes to self-defense. It’s still a question of being able to go home at night, of being able to maintain your quality of life (e.g. not becoming crippled for the rest of your life), of being put in fear of your life. The attacker being armed or unarmed isn’t as important a question as the danger being presented.