Monday, 16 April 2012

Cosby Blames "The Gun" for Trayvon Martin Killing

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"It's the gun," actor, comedian, and sometime social commentator Bill Cosby said when asked about possible racial implications in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, whose killing sparked a widespread demand for the arrest and prosecution of the shooter, neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman. After more than six weeks of controversy, Zimmerman last week was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of the unarmed teenager in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. In an interview aired on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, Cosby was asked it he believed race had been a motivating factor in the shooting of Martin, an African-American, by Zimmerman, a Hispanic.

"It's the gun," said Cosby, simulating a handgun with the forefinger extended and the thumb up on his right hand. "When you have a gun, you may not realize it, but you put it on your person and you mean to pull this," Cosby said, flexing his "trigger" finger, "and kill somebody. That's what you mean to do."

Zimmerman has admitted shooting the unarmed teenager, whom he had been trailing as a suspected intruder in the gated community, but has claimed he shot in self-defense after Martin knocked him down and continued to assault him. Zimmerman was arraigned by a Florida special prosecutor, appointed after a nationwide protest by African-Americans and others that the investigation by local and state law enforcement officials had been moving too slowly. The killing has also sparked controversy over "Stand Your Ground" laws in Florida and other states that allow a person to use lethal force against a potentially deadly attack or one that would likely result in serious bodily harm. The laws, sometimes referred to as an extension of the "castle doctrine," have eliminated the requirement for someone threatened outside his or her own home to retreat to safety if retreat is possible.

Cosby's comments were aired one day after Wayne LaPierre, president of the National Rifle Association, tore into media coverage of the Martin killing at this year's NRA annual meetings in St. Louis.

"In the aftermath of one of Florida's many daily tragedies, my phone has been ringing off the hook," LaPierre told the NRA members. "Now, the National Rifle Association will not comment on any story without a full, thorough understanding of the facts. But if I were to answer a call from Diane Sawyer or Chris Matthews or Brian Williams or Rachel Maddow, let me tell you what I'd ask them:

Where's your outrage about Willie Brewer III, from Akron, Ohio?

Or Derrick Linkhorn, from Decatur, Georgia. Or Daryl Adams, from New York City? What about Antonio Duff? Just this past Monday afternoon, around the same time I got into town, he was killed — murdered. And he's not the only young man murdered in this city just this past week. 

You reporters don't know their names. You don't care about those people. You manufacture controversy for ratings.

The NRA, which defends the right of law-abiding citizens to carry firearms for self-defense, regularly publishes accounts of people who successfully use such weapons to stop armed robberies or ward off violent and potentially deadly attacks. The organization has advocated and lobbied for passage of "Stand Your Ground" laws that have been enacted in 25 states, including Florida. Critics claim the laws allow people to literally get away with murder by claiming they believed they were being threatened. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced at the National Press Club in Washington last Wednesday that he would be leading a national campaign to repeal the laws.

"The tragic death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, touched a nerve all across this country," Bloomberg said in announcing the "Second Chance on Shoot First" campaign. "I believe we all have a responsibility to investigate the meaning of this terrible event for our nation and then to take action." Bloomberg described the laws as an assault on "civilized society" and a "license to murder."

"You just cannot have a civilized society where everybody can have a gun and make their own decisions as to whether someone is threatening or not," the mayor said. "This has nothing to do with gun owners' rights, nothing to do with the second amendment. Plain and simple, this is just trying to give people a license to murder."

It is not the first time the New York mayor and the National Rifle Association have been at cross-purposes over gun legislation. In January of 2011, Bloomberg called for stricter background checks for gun purchases. NRA political director Chuck Cunningham responded at that time by claiming the mayor was trying to deflect blame for violent crime in the city.

"He likes to blame everyone else for violent crime in New York City," Cunningham said. "He's not after illegal guns. He's after your guns. And that's a real snow job."

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