“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.