Zimmerman is the face of legal gun ownership gone terribly wrong

Will Reese holds a protest sign in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin trial, in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, July 14, 2013.A Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman on Saturday in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in a case that sparked a national debate over racial profiling and self-defense laws. REUTERS/Keith Bedford (UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST SOCIETY POLITICS) Will Reese holds a protest sign in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin killing in  Harlem on July 14. (Keith Bedford/Reuters)

George Zimmerman has a future, sure.

He’s the perfect poster boy for everything that is wrong with legal gun ownership in America.

Guns? Why aren’t we talking about guns, too?

So many passionate words have been written and spoken — from America’s neighborhoods to the White House — since Trayvon Martin was killed last year and Zimmerman was acquitted in the teen’s death last weekend.

We are confronted with a confusing and unfair justice system.

We cannot deny that our society continues to struggle with racism and inequality and  stereotyping and suspicions tainted by ignorance.

If Trayvon Martin hadn’t been black, he might still be alive today.

But ultimately, if Zimmerman hadn’t been carrying a gun, the confrontation that he initiated that night in February when he shot the 17-year-old dead might have been nothing more than a fistfight, if that.

And everyone knows you don’t bring a gun to a fistfight.

A bunch of other people were also killed in America that day — Feb. 26, 2012.

In Los Angeles, four people were shot dead the same night that Martin was. But we probably won’t learn what social ills led up to the gunshot deaths of Irvin Soloache, 20; Meldrick Melgoza, 16; Carolina Ramirez, 16; and Curtis Sproull, 31.

In Chicago that night, Anthony Harrell, 20,  and two teenagers were shot in a drive-by shooting. The teens survived, but Harrell died at the scene.

In New Orleans, Cory Henderson, 19, who worked as a cook at the Palace Cafe, was shot  and killed outside an apartment complex that day in February.

Mental illness, poverty, domestic violence, racism, greed, culture and pure evil may all have been factors in these deaths. Who knows?

But the one common denominator in every single killing? A gun.

The gun gave George Zimmerman the hubris to cowboy around town and confront a teen who probably could’ve beat him in a fair fight.

And I’m guessing that all the other gunshot homicides that happened in America that night wouldn’t have happened if their killers hadn’t been empowered by their guns.

We had meaningful talk about mental health when it came to the Virginia Tech massacre or the Tucson shooting. We increased school security after the massacres at Columbine. Movie theaters set up metal detectors after the shooting in Aurora. And we are having excellent and needed conversations about race relations after Martin’s death.

But the one thing that has absolutely, positively NOT changed after all this bloodshed is guns. And their position in our culture.

America’s gun culture, bolstered by our powerful gun lobby, wants us all to think we’re strong and bold and patriotic and defending ourselves with guns.

The truth is, guns and people usually end up like this — messy, hair-trigger, complicated and tragic.

In Florida, Marissa Alexander tried to follow the gun lobby script — an abused woman defending herself against further domestic violence. But instead, her story will tell you that a gun as self-defense is often a myth. Alexander is serving 20  years for her 2010 firing of a warning shot into the ceiling when her abusive husband was threatening her.

So much for that.

We cannot mourn Martin without considering the way we live with guns in our lives. President Obama on Sunday asked for this.

“We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis,” he said in a statement.

“We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.”

This is exactly what Obama and many Americans asked for in January, when we were shaken by the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Mass. Tears, speeches, lobbying, campaigning.

And what happened? Nothing.

George Zimmerman had his gun legally and it looks like he’ll probably get it back.

But he is the epitome of an American who didn’t know how to handle his weapon.

And, frighteningly, he’s not alone.

Petula is a columnist for The Washington Post's local team who writes about homeless shelters, gun control, high heels, high school choirs, the politics of parenting, jails, abortion clinics, mayors, modern families, strip clubs and gas prices, among other things.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read

local

local

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Next Story
Clinton Yates · July 14, 2013