I used to be quite a collector, and I still get occasional emails from eBay that someone has listed, say, 1939 World’s Fair Memorabilia…or a mechanical bank…or a murder weapon.
I’m only kidding about the last one. George Zimmerman didn’t list his gun on eBay. No, he tried to sell the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin on the site of United Gun Group Auctions where, I suppose, “Murder Weapons” is but one of the search categories available.
Anyway, Zimmerman’s listing had me up in arms (so to speak). A starting price of $5,000.00? It’s used, for crying out loud!
But George (if I may call him that) tried to justify his price. The listing says:
“Prospective bidders, I am honored and humbled to announce the sale of an American Firearm Icon. The firearm for sale is the firearm that was used to defend my life and end the brutal attack from Trayvon Martin on 2/26/2012.”
First of all, how could he be honored if he was listing it himself? What–he was giving himself the honor? And if he’s calling it an icon, he doesn’t seem too humble about it.
Besides which, in order to be an icon, something has to be instantly recognizable. I’ll bet 99.5% of Americans wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between George Zimmerman’s KelTec PF-9 and any other handgun unless the evidence tag was still on it. I’m also pretty sure I wouldn’t want to meet anyone from the other .5% in a dark alley.
But here’s my question: while it’s clear that it would be immoral (and illegal, I think) for Zimmerman to profit from a crime, he didn’t technically commit a crime since he was acquitted. So does the acquittal make it okay for him to sell the gun for whatever he can get for it? Or should the fact that the gun was used to kill someone–even if it was while being “brutally attacked” by a Skittles-wielding young African-American–take it off the market?
Personally, I’m torn. On one hand, the gun is Zimmerman’s to do with what he pleases (watch out, black teenagers!). And at the end of the day, isn’t the world a safer place if George Zimmerman owns one less gun?
But on the other hand, my reflexive reaction is that it is, indeed, unethical (or at least in poor taste) to sell a murder weapon.
But what if, instead of Zimmerman’s KelTec PF-9, it was John Wilkes Booth’s Derringer that was being auctioned off? What about Lee Harvey Oswald’s 6.5 mm Carcano Model 91/38 carbine?
Does time make a difference? Historical significance?
Upon reflection, I think the asshole factor is that Zimmerman himself is (“humbly”) selling it. Booth and Oswald couldn’t easily put their guns up for sale because there was no Internet and because, you know, they got killed.
Let me pause here to say that it’s probably a lame exercise in the first place to question Zimmerman’s ethics and morality in selling the gun. It’s like finding out Hitler was into child porn and saying, “Well, now, that’s just over the line.”
But the story has caused me to ask myself, “If I had shot a candy-toting black man and somehow been acquitted of murder, what would I do with the gun?” If I was Zimmerman, I’d like to think my inclination would be not to put it up for sale in a very public way, thus once again calling attention to myself and my book-length legal history. I’m sure I wouldn’t do it for a mere $5,000.
But then I read that someone had bid $66 million for George Zimmerman’s gun.
To paraphrase a famous punchline, we already knew what kind of a person I am; we’re just haggling over the price.
I could do a lot with $66 million. If I was George, I could even assuage any guilt I might have by donating a chunk of it to black charities or perhaps the ASPCA, because you just know Mr. Zimmerman did something naughty to puppies as a child.*
Would it make a difference to me ethically whether the $66 million offer came from a reputable gun collector as opposed to someone named, for instance, Racist McShootface? Absolutely! Even George Zimmerman couldn’t sell the gun to Racist McShootface, right?
Well, yes, but that’s only because Mr. McShootface didn’t really exist. Yes, shockingly enough, the actual $66 million bid from Racist McShootface (his friends, if he would have had any, would have called him “Mac”) was fake.
So George had to relist the gun. It was the second time he had to do so. It ultimately sold for $120,000. Good thing, too, because he said that if it didn’t sell (it was, after all, not mint in box) he would put it in a safe for his grandchildren.
Now, my wife and I spent a weekend recently going through the stuff in my mother’s home now that mom is in assisted living, and all we found were some old, surrendered annuity contracts, name and address labels from every charity that had ever sent my mother a mailing**, an ancient Rummikub game, and five Swiffers, which seemed like an excessive number of Swiffers for a two bedroom apartment.
And while I’m sure our daughter would be horrified if her grandparents left her a used murder weapon, it would be nice if she could inherit something besides my mother’s 2015 Donor of the Year certificate from some veteran’s organization to which she had contributed $5.
Oh, and this thing>
See you soon.
*For his part, Zimmerman does have a few charities in mind for some of the proceeds from the gun sale. Among other things, he has said that he’d like to use the money to fight Black Lives Matter violence against police. I’m not sure he specified how he would fight Black Lives Matter violence against police, especially after he sells the gun.
**My mother, I’ve recently discovered, apparently sent a $5 check to just about every organization who sent her name and address labels. But she kept meticulous records so that she would only send the $5 to each organization once a year. Given how often some nonprofits mail to “donors,” this likely meant that many of them lost money on my mother. It also meant that she accumulated a lot of name and address labels.