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Political Ramifications of Trayvon Martin Shooting

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SANFORD, FL - MARCH 25: Supporters gather during a candelight vigil at a memorial to Trayvon Martin outside The Retreat at Twin Lakes community where Trayvon was shot and killed by George Michael Zimmerman while on neighborhood watch patrol on March 25, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Participants planted a cross at the site to honor Martin. Rev. Jesse Jackson will lead a march in Sanford tomorrow. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

SANFORD, FL – MARCH 25: Supporters gather during a candelight vigil at a memorial to Trayvon Martin outside The Retreat at Twin Lakes community where Trayvon was shot and killed by George Michael Zimmerman while on neighborhood watch patrol on March 25, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Participants planted a cross at the site to honor Martin. Rev. Jesse Jackson will lead a march in Sanford tomorrow. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

The national reaction to the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teenager shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator who claims he was acting in self defense, will have various and volatile political ramifications throughout the upcoming election season.

The volume of the reaction, and how quickly it spawned large rallies and social media campaigns across the nation, shows that this shooting will spur action on various issues and will do it immediately.

One of the first areas where politicians will feel pressure is in the area of racial politics, meaning laws regarding racial profiling and hate crimes. Some legal pundits are already talking about how Zimmerman, the man who shot Martin, may face a hate crime charge.

The problem with pushing for more action on racial profiling and hate crime laws is that major progress cannot be created quickly on either of those fronts in the forms of legislation. Progress made in those areas over the past years will force politicians to be much more nuanced in how they approach any new proposals.

But the positive side of that political argument is that dividing along political lines isn’t likely, meaning that if someone can find new areas for changes in current laws, political hurdles should not be difficult to traverse. Few politicians will want to stand in the way of new proposals, but the authoring of those new proposals that will provide the biggest challenge.

With real movement on racial politics possibly taking some time, the energy of rallies and other campaigns will likely focus on various gun laws in the United States.

Much of story has already focused on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. As I understand it, the law grants a person to “stand his or her ground” and meet force with force if they “fear death or bodily harm”.

Many legal pundits believe that this law may protect Zimmerman from any charges in Florida. But since many see the shooting as the murder of an unarmed teenager, not of someone defending himself from bodily harm, there are now many Americans across the country who want to see laws like the “Stand Your Ground” law changed.

Since 20 other states besides Florida have similar “Stand Your Ground” laws, citizens in many other states beyond Florida will push lawmakers to take a stand on these issues. Taking those important stands becomes much more delicate during an election year.

In a state like Colorado, gun law issues can have an enormous impact on the election. As a western state, Colorado citizens have routinely supported more independence on gun laws. Colorado isn’t Texas, but Colorado is also not a state that will look to restrict gun ownership and usage because of a tragic event in Florida.

While national politics may swing one way on this issue, Colorado voters may lean in a different direction. Those differences of opinion may make it interesting for some in our Congressional delegation and when national candidates come to campaign in the Centennial State.

The outcry and calls for justice surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin will only increase in the coming days. That energy will certainly affect the 2012 election, but exactly how it changes the debate in each state will remain to be seen.
About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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