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Joe Henderson: Memo to Al Sharpton — you missed the target

Memo to Al Sharpton.

Bug out, dude.

The decision by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri not to immediately arrest the shooter in the latest “stand your ground” case in our state has nothing to do with his reluctance to prosecute a crime.

If you want to blame someone for this fiasco, blame the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature. And while you’re at it, kick Florida Democrats upside their frequently self-righteous backsides for their role in for the state’s lopsided gun laws.

They got their tails outflanked as Republicans took complete control of state government over the last 20 years. While the GOP pressed for education “reform,” pro-growth, anti-regulation, anti-public education and tax-schmax laws, nowhere have the state felt the impact of Republican rule more than in gun laws.

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Marion Hammer of the National Rifle Association became better-known as a policy manipulator than anyone the Democrats had to offer as a counterbalance. And so we have “stand your ground” rewritten as essentially a license to kill because now a shooter can claim they felt threatened enough in a confrontation to use lethal force.

That nuance of law led Gualtieri to decline to arrest Michael Drejka for fatally shooting Markeis McGlockton in an argument over a parking violation that spiraled out of control.

At a rally in Clearwater, Sharpton said Gualtieri should “give up his badge” for not immediately arresting Drejka, who is white, for shooting McGlockton, who is black, to death.

Nonsense.

The better argument is whether, regardless of color, Drejka felt empowered on some level by the state’s idiotic interpretation of SYG to use lethal force in what should have been a relatively minor scuffle, if that.

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A lot of people, including me, warned this type of confrontation was coming once state Republican lawmakers rammed this SYG modification through. I asked Gualtieri on Tuesday night if he would have thought differently about arresting Drejka under the old standard of SYG.

“This is an extremely complicated case,” he told me. “The state statute as I understand it says you can’t arrest without probable cause.”

I believe his interpretation is correct. It’s what GOP lawmakers had in mind when they pushed through the NRA-backed enhancements to SYG. And that, folks, is what Gualtieri is required to enforce.

If outsiders like Al Sharpton really want to make a difference here more than a headline, stop blaming law enforcement officers on the front line for enforcing what legislators forced upon them.

They should stop pretending this is solely a black-white issue. It’s a red issue, as in the blood that is being spilled when lawmakers decide that it’s legal to shoot first and justify later.

That’s what the protest should be about.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

Richard Corcoran Richard Corcoran

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