The Republican National Convention took place in Florida, where the state’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” law has come under sharp criticism following the shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin by self-appointed neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, earlier this year. The shooting incident has emboldened some supporters of Stand Your Ground. On the convention floor, Amy Goodman spoke with one of the law’s most vocal advocates, Bill Bunting, a Florida delegate and the Second Amendment chairman for the Republican Party of Florida. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to the issue of race and politics, guns and other issues. The Republican convention has taken place in Florida, where the state’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” law has come under sharp criticism following the shooting of the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin by the self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman earlier this year. The shooting incident has emboldened some supporters of Stand Your Ground. On the convention floor, I spoke with one of the law’s most vocal advocates. His name is Bill Bunting, a Florida delegate, Second Amendment chair of the Republican Party of Florida.
AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of Stand Your Ground law and the killing of Trayvon Martin, are you sorry that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin?
BILL BUNTING: Am I sorry? I don’t like to see anyone lose their life. I think it’s an unnecessary thing. But I still think people have a right to respect and protect their own life when it comes to the law.
AMY GOODMAN: And George Zimmerman, what some called, stalking this young man? I mean, even the 911 operator telling him to get back in his car, law enforcement was coming.
BILL BUNTING: Again, that’s going to go to the rule of evidence when it goes to a court of law. And I don’t know all the circumstances, only what I read or hear in the newspapers. So it’s very difficult just to make a judgment call on that alone.
AMY GOODMAN: When you learn the basic facts of what happened, a young man who was unarmed being killed by a man with a gun, who was told by law enforcement to step back, you don’t see a problem with that?
BILL BUNTING: Well, I said that will be taken up in a court of law on the rule of evidence. I mean, that’s—a jury will decide that. Where I have—the thing is, when the altercation started, and then he was being beaten,he had his head split open, he used his firearm to protect himself, because how far would have the other guy have gone? Could he have been beaten to death? Could he have had a fractured skull?
AMY GOODMAN: What if he had just stayed in his car? None of this would have happened—
BILL BUNTING: Well, that’s—
AMY GOODMAN: —doing as 911 told him.
BILL BUNTING: I understand where you’re going with that. And I said I have respect for the operator telling him that. Me, personally, I probably would have avoided a situation like that. But he was in a situation. How it escalated, I don’t think anyone knows the facts, so it goes to court.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think we would be safer if we all packed a pistol?
BILL BUNTING: Oh, I absolutely think it would be safer if we all packed—
AMY GOODMAN: So why not do it in this stadium, all of us armed with guns?
BILL BUNTING: Well, I don’t have a problem with that, all packing a pistol in the stadium. I absolutely don’t. But I also have respect for the law. If the statute said we’re not allowed to do it, then I’m not going to do it. Just as you said you have a belief about your standing on the case with Zimmerman, I respect you. I’m not—it’s one thing—one goes the other way, one goes this way. No, I mean, when I go to Arizona to visit my daughter, you can open-carry anywhere. We don’t open-carry in Florida. And I don’t think—it may or may not be appropriate. But, you know, the legislature and the citizens will decide that.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you packing a pistol in here?
BILL BUNTING: You can’t pack a pistol in here. I wouldn’t pack a pistol in here.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
BILL BUNTING: It would be in violation of the law. You know, that comes under the 790 statutes, because when you get a carry permit, you’re restricted. You can’t go into sporting events. You can’t go into schools. You can’t go on a gambling boat. I mean, there are a number of places that you just can’t go with a firearm. This happens to be one of them—political meeting, political organization. You can’t do it, because—Raymond James Stadium, or if this was a hockey game, a hockey game, if there’s alcohol involved, you can’t be in a bar. So, they take restrictions, and we all have to live by the restrictions and follow them.
AMY GOODMAN: Because of what happened with the killing of Trayvon Martin, do you think Stand Your Ground laws are threatened around the country?
BILL BUNTING: Let me—let me tell you. Because of the killing of the Stand Your Ground law with Trayvon Martin, gun sales are up to record numbers here in the state of Florida. The—one of them over here is a former state senator. He’s in the audience here. I think he’s here somewhere. He’s probably in the back part. He’s got the oldest gun shop in the United States of America. Him, along with all of the gun owners and gun shows, are going through record crowds. Where we were averaging about 7,000 permits a month, coming in, once the Trayvon Martin case hit, we’re averaging between 11,000 and 12,500 permits. So there’s an increase in permits. There’s an increase in more women purchasing firearm. And there’s more gun ranges opening in the state of Florida.
AMY GOODMAN: So you—
BILL BUNTING: I know that to be true.
AMY GOODMAN: So you think this has led to something good?
BILL BUNTING: Oh, I think—I think it’s just—what it’s done here is, he’s put it in the limelight. It’s put it up front, and it’s put it forward. People can make their own decisions what they want to do. Now they’re aware that there is a Second Amendment, and they have a constitutional right. And if they choose to use that right, they can do so. But more importantly, they have to respect the law.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Bill Bunting, delegate to this year’s Republican convention, Second Amendment chair for the Republican Party of Florida. Rae Abileah, you held a protest this week related to guns.
RAE ABILEAH: Well, that’s right, Amy. Shockingly, the National Rifle Association hosted a shootout for Republican delegates just outside the Tampa city border. And we CODEPINKers went there and held a vigil for victims of gun violence, from the innocent people who died in the massacre in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater recently, to the Sikh community, the New York City shootings, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant from California, where I’m from. This gun violence must end. And it’s just a symbol, I think, of a society that praises war-o-tainment, like the new NBC show Stars Earn Stripes, and glorifies the military and the wars and occupations overseas. And we have to have stricter gun laws, or we’re just going to keep killing our own civilians here at home.