Bids for Zimmerman gun rocket into millions
13 May 2016, 16:41
Washington – A website auction of the gun used by a
neighbourhood watchman to kill an unarmed black teenager in the United States
in 2012 quickly climbed into millions of dollars on Friday.
Nationwide protests erupted after George Zimmerman
shot dead Trayvon Martin in what he said was self defense, but the teenager's
family and friends claimed was a racist murder.
Zimmerman's trial and subsequent acquittal exposed
the deep racial fissures in US society.
Online bids for the gun, which had an initial
reserve price of $5 000 – already far above the market value of a secondhand
weapon – rocketed overnight on Thursday and into Friday after it was listed on
unitedgungroup.com, with five days left to go in the sale.
However, it was difficult to verify the validity of
the bids, with participants using obvious pseudonyms and seemingly bidding
against themselves as the price climbed past $53m.
The auction site did not appear to have any
restrictions on who could bid for the weapon and did not request down payments.
Zimmerman advertised the gun as "the firearm
that was used to defend my life and end the brutal attack from Trayvon
Martin" and called the sale "your opportunity to own a piece of
"The firearm is fully functional as the
attempts by the Department of Justice on behalf of B Hussein Obama to render
the firearm inoperable were thwarted," Zimmerman's listing said,
apparently referring to President Barack Obama.
"I am proud to announce that a portion of the
proceeds will be used to: fight BLM (Black Lives Matter) violence against Law
Enforcement officers," he wrote.
The Black Lives Matter movement grew out of the
killings of a number of young black men across the country, many at the hands
of police officers who were not subsequently charged.
A neighbourhood watch volunteer in a gated
community in Florida, Zimmerman fatally shot high school student Martin as he
was walking home with iced tea and candy in February 2012.
Zimmerman insisted he had been following Martin on
suspicion the teenager was involved in robbery, and that he shot him in an act
He was acquitted of second-degree murder the
following year, setting off protests nationwide over Florida's "stand your
ground" gun laws.
The weapon's description on United Gun Group, which
bills itself as a "social marketplace for the firearms community,"
was accompanied by photographs of the gun taken when it was displayed as
evidence in court.
The 32-year-old Zimmerman has made headlines
repeatedly since his acquittal over Martin's death, notably for selling paintings
of the Confederate Flag – which many view as a racist symbol – in partnership
with a Florida gun store.
He has also had several subsequent run-ins with the
Last year, he was accused of assault by his
girlfriend, although she later withdrew the complaint.
In September 2014, he allegedly threatened a man
during a road rage incident on a Florida highway, but police released him
because the man did not want to press charges.
In 2013, his estranged wife Shellie Zimmerman
called police to say he had threatened her with a gun, but she, too, failed to