George Zimmerman’s gun and the family it changed forever

    FILE - In this Tuesday

    FILE - In this Tuesday

    When I learned that George Zimmerman was attempting to auction off the gun he used to kill unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin in 2012, I was numb. Then I was crestfallen. Then I was angry.

    I was angry because Zimmerman, the infamous neighborhood watch volunteer, followed and shot a 17-year-old boy on a rainy Florida evening. I was angry because Martin was gunned down while carrying nothing more than snacks. I was angry because Zimmerman not only killed Martin. He victimized Martin’s parents, as well.

    Zimmerman tortured them emotionally when he shot Martin dead and claimed self-defense. Then yesterday, nearly three years after his acquittal, Zimmerman coldly described the gun that killed their son as “the firearm that was used to defend my life and end the brutal attack from Trayvon Martin.”

    Zimmerman planned to start the bidding for the 9 mm Kel-Tec PF-9 pistol at $5,000. Thankfully,, the first website Zimmerman tried to use to sell the gun, refused to take part in the transaction. Zimmerman is reportedly trying to sell the weapon on another site.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Meanwhile, Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, have wisely declined to comment on the proposed sale. They have instead focused on the efforts of the Trayvon Martin Foundation, an organization whose mission is to end gun violence.

    But even in their silence I know the family is hurting. Not just because Sybrina Fulton has been outspoken in the wake of her son’s death, but also because I spoke with Trayvon’s father last year, and I came away knowing how much Tracy Martin loved his son.

    “Trayvon was born on a Sunday,” Martin told me during a face-to-face interview at Arcadia University.

    We were sitting on a stage, speaking to one another as the fathers of black sons. As an audience of hundreds looked on, Tracy Martin spoke of the day Trayvon was born. He remembered as if it were yesterday.

    “I was actually the first to hold him, besides the doctor, and to cut the umbilical cord,” Martin said. “And it’s funny, because he screamed, man, and the doctor was like, ‘I haven’t even slapped you on your backside yet.’ . . . It’s something that I’ll never forget.”

    Martin had many memories of his son, including the time 9-year-old Trayvon dragged his father to safety after the elder Martin burned his legs in a grease fire. He vividly recalled the days he and his son spent together at baseball fields. But it was Tracy Martin’s darkest memory that stuck with me. I’ll never forget the way he described how he learned of the death of his son.

    The date was February 27, 2012. He’d reported his son missing at 4:30 am. Two hours later, the police came to see him.

    “It didn’t dawn on me that the first person to introduce himself to me was the—he was sort of like the chaplain for the police department,” Martin told me as the audience hung on his every word. “And then the detective came up. He introduced himself. He said he was with the Major Crimes Unit. And it’s not registering.

    “So, he asked me did I have a picture of Trayvon. I told him, ‘Yeah I had a picture.’ I had just taken a picture of him and two more of my kids playing around two days before . . .

    “He asked me when was the last time I’d seen Trayvon and what did he have on and he went through the formalities, and then he said, ‘I’m going to show you a picture. You tell me if this is your son.’ And he pulled out a picture, and it was him on the ground dead.”

    There was a collective gasp when Tracy Martin shared that moment. It was as if all of us could feel his pain.

    And while Tracy Martin said he still wanted justice for his son and for others who’d suffered similar fates, his words on forgiveness are almost haunting.

    “Have I forgiven him?” Martin asked rhetorically. “No, not yet. I haven’t built up enough strength in me to forgive him, because you’ve taken 90 percent of me from me. And slowly but surely I’m putting that 90 percent back in me, but I know I won’t ever gain that 90 percent, because not only have you taken my son’s life. You’ve taken possible grandchildren from me. So it’s a fine line there. You’ve cut off a lineage in a certain way. So will I ever forgive? I don’t know. Will I ever forget? I know I definitely won’t ever forget.”

    George Zimmerman, in trying to profit from the death of Trayvon Martin, seems keen not to let anyone forget, least of all Trayvon’s parents.

    With all the pain Trayvon’s family has experienced, that saddens me most of all.

    Listen to Solomon Jones on 900 am WURD weekdays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal