George Zimmerman, who four years ago shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin and was acquitted of murder charges due to Florida’s “stand your ground” gun laws, is a gift that keeps on giving -- and not in a good way.
Just when we thought he disappeared from the nation’s consciousness, Zimmerman jumped back in with his announcement last week that he would sell the gun that he used to, depending on your perspective, kill Martin in cold blood or defend himself from perceived danger.
Describing it as an “American Firearm Icon,” Zimmerman claimed he was well within his rights to sell the gun so he could raise money for a variety of purposes, including derailing the careers of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as well as Angela Corey, the special prosecutor assigned by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to investigate the killing of Martin. Other causes named by Zimmerman include "defending law enforcement officers” from Bureau of Land Management “violence” (we at TriplePundit are not sure to what he's referring, although it could be the long-running Oregon standoff).
Of course Zimmerman, who has had a reportedly checkered employment history and blamed the February 2012 incident for a bout of homelessness, never said exactly how much money would go to such aforementioned causes.
This is not exactly the kind of spokesperson the gun lobby and industry need as they justify unrestricted gun ownership as necessary for self-defense. But as the cliché goes, this is a free country — as Zimmerman was reported to have said as he harassed some black teenagers in, of all places, Ferguson, Missouri. “I’m a free American; I can do what I want with my possessions,” he told an Orlando, Florida television station last week.
And those who are continually horrified by Zimmerman’s apparent lack of empathy, his behavior over the past four years and his decision to jump on the “murderabilia” bandwagon have decided to show that this is indeed, a free country.
The results are embarrassing for any gun dealer who chose to be associated with Zimmerman. The first auction site, GunBroker.com, hastily removed the firearm soon after posting it on its site. Not long afterward, another site, Missouri-based United Gun Group, launched its own auction, but then quickly deleted the listing. But the same company decided to start another auction, and that is when the fun, or trolling, began.
The $5,000 gun soon soared in “value” to $65 million, with phantom bidders showing what they thought of Zimmerman and his latest publicity stunt. United Gun Group put the kibosh on that auction. But give Zimmerman credit -- he’s determined. Earlier this week, the company launched its third attempted auction. At press time, the gun is currently fetching over $100,000, because, as the company’s owner explained to a St. Louis television station, this is about “standing firm for individual rights as adults to make their own decision.”
The problem with Zimmerman’s adult decision is that he is giving “defenders” of Second Amendment rights, who already look ridiculous when toddlers seem to be accidentally shooting adults on a weekly basis, even more public-relations problems.
The stubborn fact is that, like it or not, image -- and tone -- matter. During the closing days of the hapless Kerry-Edwards campaign in 2004, I confronted, and offended, a group of campaigners because I told them if they wanted to convince people to vote a certain way, they had to be both articulate and groomed. That bunch did nothing but spit out anti-Bush invective and looked as if they had not showered in days (one activist screamed at me that she was going to call the police after I told her not to hand out campaign fliers while looking as if she had partied for a week, but hey, this is a free country). One reason why the “Occupy” movement failed is because many of its followers looked as if they could not occupy much of anything. “Black Lives Matter” activists turn off otherwise empathetic citizens when they heckle and interrupt speakers. And while Donald Trump has his core believers, one reason why so much of the electorate will not consider voting for him is that as soon as he seems reasonable, his foot enters his mouth and refuses to leave.
Zimmerman had a chance to redeem himself, simply by staying out of trouble and perhaps even doing some form of community service to show that he was not the despicable ogre many make him out to be. Unfortunately for his future prospects, he has chosen to behave as a petulant teenager. And for a lobby that talks so much about “personal responsibility,” having Zimmerman in the news helps move the “gun rights” movement in one direction: backward.
Image credit: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's worked an lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.