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Florida-style 'Stand Your Ground' gun laws sub impulse for intelligent thinking

Even as George Zimmerman stands trial for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, many Americans argue these laws make us safe. I've had pistols held to my head from Bosnia to Beirut. Your best self-defense is your tongue. Those who put their faith in guns will ultimately be outgunned.

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Walter Rodgers, pictured here in Boston in September 2007, says in his final column: 'Americans’ faith in guns is sorely misplaced. Ultimately, they encourage fear and fantasy, and they leave everyone more insecure.'

Joy Cusack

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Because this is my last column, I want to challenge a deeply held belief that is, tragically, a core one for millions of Americans. [See editor's note at the end of this column.]

One of the most common ideas emerging after the Trayvon Martin tragedy with Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is that guns make you safe. My experience is exactly the opposite.

Handguns like the one George Zimmerman used to shoot and kill the African-American teenager merely enable those who use them to make fatal mistakes. Mr. Zimmerman is now out of prison on bail, awaiting trial for second-degree murder, when a $20 can of pepper spray could have possibly defused the confrontation without loss of life.

As a reporter who spent much of a 40-year career covering wars, crime, and prisons, I’ve learned that your best weapon of self-defense is your tongue. Rarely does one find oneself in a confrontation that can’t be talked out of, and where having a gun would have made things safer.

Just after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and several American cities rioted and even burned, I was interviewing African-Americans in Atlanta about a block from King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.

A large black man, big enough to play linebacker for the Chicago Bears, grabbed me by my coat, and slammed me against a concrete wall.

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