The shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida last month was yet another tragic reminder that our nation’s lax gun laws must be overhauled if we are to stem the endless tide of senseless killings that plague our country.
Roughly 30,000 Americans die each year due to gun violence, including homicides, suicides and accidental shootings, according to the CDC, yet gun control remains a taboo, third-rail subject.
Instead of prompting a national dialogue and soul-searching on this important topic, the reaction to the shooting of Martin by a neighborhood watch patrolman, George Zimmerman, has focused instead on questions of racial bias. Reckless pot-stirring by ambulance-chasing zealots like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, along with typically lazy and even deliberately inaccurate reporting by the mainstream media have stoked racial tensions while ignoring the problem of gun proliferation. Jackson told the L.A. Times that the case is an embarrassment to white America, ignoring Zimmerman’s Hispanic ancestry. Sharpton masquerades as a TV journalist for MSNBC while leading rallies demanding that Zimmerman be arrested.
LGBT people and black Americans are no strangers to these horrifying crime statistics — both groups are disproportionately impacted by hate crimes. But the focus on race, which was largely triggered by NBC News’s doctored 911 recording for which a producer was fired last week, is a distraction that pumps up cable ratings and generates lots of heat, but no light.
Adding to the toxic and dangerous reaction: celebrities and their vapid Twitter commentary. Director Spike Lee re-Tweeted Zimmerman’s home address, but got it wrong and an innocent retired couple residing there was forced to move out to avoid a vigilante mob. Correcting Lee’s error, Roseanne Barr then Tweeted the correct address for Zimmerman’s parents and later apologized for promoting the same sort of vigilante-ism that purportedly killed Martin.
Not to be left out of all the bandwagon posturing, the nation’s leading LGBT advocacy groups belatedly leapt into the fray on April 2 — 36 days after the shooting — to draw parallels between black and LGBT crime victims and express solidarity with Martin’s family.
“Trayvon’s killing is tragic and the stark reality that racial bias played a role in his death has alarmed our nation,” read the statement, which was signed by HRC, GLAAD, Freedom to Marry, Lambda Legal, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and many other national LGBT rights groups.
“Stark reality?” Unfortunately, there’s not much about this case that’s so crystal clear. The facts are few so far: Martin was unarmed and shot by Zimmerman, who was released after claiming self-defense. That infamous 911 recording was edited by NBC to make it appear as if Zimmerman was targeting Martin because he was black. NBC later apologized. CNN, too, played fast and loose with the recording, initially reporting that Zimmerman had called Martin a “fucking coon,” then later acknowledging that after enhancing the recording, what he actually said was “fucking punks,” or maybe “fucking cold,” alluding to that evening’s chilly temperatures.
LGBT rights groups, along with celebrities and civil rights activists, should do what Zimmerman failed to do and exercise some self-restraint. The Martin case is in the hands of a special prosecutor who could bring charges as early as this week against Zimmerman. A grand jury is expected to convene Tuesday. Let’s hear from the experts and investigators before rushing to judgment and issuing our politically correct press releases. Did Martin attack Zimmerman and break his nose? What is the full transcript of the 911 call? Did the dispatcher order Zimmerman not to follow Martin?
The Martin case is a tragedy and a clear indictment of Florida’s draconian “stand your ground” law that has so far shielded Zimmerman from arrest. But portraying Martin as a hate crime martyr is premature and irresponsible. We don’t know the facts and in the weeks since the Martin shooting, LGBT people have been attacked, shot and killed in the U.S. without a press release or peep of protest.