Letter: Vicitms of the Gun Myth

To the Editor:

The George Zimmerman trial is a news event that should be more than just another tragedy that provides grist for the media mill. Zimmerman’s fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin is part of a national tragedy that affects us all. Zimmerman was affected by the gun industry in a way that bears a remarkable similarity to how many people were influenced by the tobacco industry.

When the Marlboro man was created as an icon to sell cigarettes, it gave our young an imaginary heroic figure. Cool, steely-eyed and attractive, the Marlboro man was easy to emulate by just lighting up.

Zimmerman is not an evil killer. I am sure he is a very nice man under normal circumstances. I imagine he is in remorseful disbelief at the tragedy that befell Martin and himself. If he had been unarmed, would he have pursued a tall, athletic teenager in the dark? Would he have confronted him without help? Wasn’t he in a righteous frame of mind as a member of the neighborhood watch — his gun strapped on, clearly giving him the upper hand. He was no longer the normal George Zimmerman. He had been transformed into the steely-eyed lawman out to do good, though without law enforcement training. He was under the spell of the gun myth. Martin felt threatened, and the situation went to its unfortunate conclusion. The gunman illusion snapped, and Zimmerman realized he had taken a life.

Every year, 36,000 Americans die from gun-related deaths. Like millions of lung cancer victims who have succumbed to the tobacco advertisers’ charms that create an image that there is something suavely sophisticated about lighting up, too many lives are ended or ruined when guns end up in the hands of the untrained, the criminal, the intoxicated, the insane, the immature, the poseurs and even children.

In the event of his conviction, does sending Zimmerman to prison serve a purpose? To seek atonement, like the courageous woman on television with a hole in her throat from cancer, perhaps it would be better to have him speak publicly about what a gun and the gun myth did to his and Martin’s lives.

Dave Desrochers