Trayvon Martin, the NRA and Perceived Threats

Protesters in Sanford, Fla., attend a town hall meeting in March, 2012. (Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)
Protesters in Sanford, Fla., attend a town hall meeting in March, 2012. (Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

Comparing and contrasting the varied ways in which gun violence could escalate in the aftermath of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Jelani Cobb at the New Yorker says that "Stand your ground" laws should be repealed. The verdict has given the National Rifle Association renewed vigor to peddle right-wing vigilantism, harkening back to the assassination of Medgar Evers.

For some years, the N.R.A.'s approach to gun-rights advocacy has amounted to a variant of the old Maoist dictum, to the effect that democracy flows from the barrel of a gun. In March, the group provided a novel twist on the theme of sidearm liberty when it débuted an ad featuring Colion Noir, a young African-American in a low-slung baseball cap, who offered a series of one-liners to explain why he supports gun rights. First among his arguments is the idea that it is absurd for African-Americans to oppose gun access, given the history of racial violence that characterized segregation. Around the time the ad was released, the N.R.A.'s president, David Keene, told an interviewer that African-Americans should recognize that gun-control policy dates back to the attempts to disarm blacks after the Civil War. There's a neat logic to the N.R.A.'s marketing push: the gun is an essential implement of democracy, so gun rights should appeal to people whose history has been defined by the struggle to achieve civil rights.

Four months after the ad appeared, a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death, last year, of Trayvon Martin. That death was the by-product of a toxic environment of racial profiling, liberal gun access, and self-defense laws—in particular, the controversial Stand Your Ground laws, which originated in Florida, in 2005, and are now on the books in more than twenty states…


Read Jelani Cobb's entire piece at the New Yorker.

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