Jason Arment explains how we have arrived at a place in our society that George Zimmerman can sell the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin for $120,000.
[Editor’s Note: This essay was originally published by The Big Smoke Australia as a way to try to “explain” to our Australian audience what is happening here in the U.S. with gun hysteria and how it is that a gun used to murder someone could be sold like some macabre souvenir. Sadly, it felt appropriate (and important) to reprint here for our own American audience.]
Here in the United States of America, we are having some problems. Our society has been showing symptoms of strange sicknesses. We, like many others, have some quirks that can be hard to understand.
In America, we have many guns. All over the place. You can buy a gun while you’re drunk in America. You can buy a gun while you have a rap sheet as long as your arm full of aggravated misdemeanors that have to do with selling drugs and getting into fights. But mentioning this doesn’t make it clear how many guns we’re talking about, so I’ll tell you a little anecdote to help foster understanding.
Once upon a time, I was buying contraband with some friends in high school. We were sitting in the parking lot of the local mall in small town Des Moines, Iowa, speaking with our friend Tyson. Tyson was an alright guy as far as we were concerned and we were alright by him. This time was different than other times, though; this time Tyson tried selling us something besides just the usual.
“I got a friend who has an AK,” he said. “Full auto. He’s trying to get rid of it—five hundred.”
We politely declined. I’d passed on my first opportunity to buy an automatic weapon at the age of 16.
That might sound crazy to anyone who doesn’t live in the continental United States of America; but if you live here, you know everyone who wants a gun already has one. That’s because it’s easy to buy a firearm here, and if you can’t do it through a dealer, a friend can hook you up in a pinch. Although, some states require the firearm be registered to the new owner and that the new owner pass a background test. And even though there is supposedly no national firearms registry when people talk about it on the senate floor, the serial number on any firearm will most certainly lead back to someone.
I just mention these things to illustrate how entrenched firearms are in the average American’s life. If the Average Joe doesn’t own one, he knows where to get one. And if you’re affluent, not only can you afford guns, but you can afford noise and flash suppressors as well (commonly referred to as silencers, although actual silencers are different in minute ways). The things that are big no-nos in America are called destructive devices and offensive weapons: anything that explodes, uses chemicals to injure (besides mace), goes full auto, or shoots blades. For some of these instruments of death, one can acquire a Class III arms dealing permit and then own and sell them after pinky promising not to sell automatic AK-47s to kids at the mall.
What would make Tyson think that I’d be interested, as a 16-year-old, in purchasing a fully auto AK-47?
Americans fetishize violence, while at the same time allowing the state to have a monopoly on its application.
What do I mean by this?
Well, let’s look at it this way. Last week, at a Napalm Death show (British grindcore), one of the fans became enraged at the women around him and started punching them in the face. Realizing no one else was going to stop it, my companion and I had to grab a bar stool and fight this much bigger fellow like lion tamers, much to our frustration.
Once it was over, I readied myself to be arrested, and my friend stuck around to talk to the police, after they had put me in bracelets and stuffed me in a squad car. Even though I was in the right, even though the other guy had punched several women multiple times in the face, and even though those women were saying as much as security enveloped me, because I’d decided to assert my will over someone else, using violence, my friend and I both knew I could be in very serious trouble. Even though there are guns everywhere in America, and even though we live in the land of the free and the home of the brave and I’m a disabled veteran, I still completely and totally expected to be arrested and then transported to county jail for at least the night.
If I had used the bar stool to kill the woman-beating brute, however, I could have leveraged one of America’s stranger socioeconomic phenomenons to make some money: murderabilia.
The sale of things associated with the taking of human life is banned outright on eBay (I think mostly because they got tired of serial killers auctioning their paintings), but that hasn’t made murderabilia go away. America thinks the power to destroy is something very special—something that only the strong, the chosen few, can wield. In America, we think if you can hurt someone, you’re a big, bad man. That’s why UFC is so popular, why people gather around fights at bars—and between homeless on the street—and watch. It’s also why in America, as well as most other places, the state has a monopoly on violence.
We fetishize violence, and thus the tools used in such acts are something we put on pedestals. People collect guns, knives, ammo, all kinds of stuff that can hurt you. But the tools which have already drawn blood? Murderabilia is even more valuable. George Zimmerman had a foggy understanding of these dynamics when he put the pistol he used to kill Trayvon Martin up for auction on a firearms website. When I learned of his plan, I was surprised Zimmerman wasn’t in jail, let alone able to still posses firearms. The last I’d remembered hearing of him was a vague story about a fight with his girlfriend in which somehow another gun was involved—at times I have trouble keeping track of these waking dreams.
But there are those who want a piece of them. Oftentimes, people don’t have anything even close to real reasoning behind their desire to own macabre mementos. I wonder what will happen to the firearm; how much further into insanity will we delve? If some crazy white supremacist purchases the pistol and continues its heinous legacy, then it will really be worth something to the American public. After all, I think it was someone from this country who bought the painting Zimmerman created and then sold on eBay for a ridiculous amount of money. The painting wasn’t murderabilia, because legally George Zimmerman isn’t a murderer. (Do you love how the state controls violence yet?)
I shot a message to Zimmerman over Ebay when his painting first went up for auction, years ago. I asked if he used the blood of the innocent in his work. His response was intended for another commenter and I thought it nonsensical. But in retrospect, what part of that story made sense? A child bought some candy and drink, and was then stalked through a neighborhood until he was eventually shot after defending himself.
Some would say the child attacked first, but I think it’s clear, with 20/20 hindsight, what Zimmerman’s intentions were that day.
I also think it’s intuitive what people want when they purchase a murder weapon, or murderabilia—blood.
I’ve written before about the bloodlust in this nation. It’s not considered polite conversation to mention how we fetishize violence and lust for blood, whilst ignoring war criminals and prosecuting deserters. And we have a segment of the population who is interested in our serial killers with an obsessive curiosity. America has a sick society. That’s why we act so fevered—the last bit of who we are is burning up in our heads.
It’s like the Iraqi poet Muhammad Mahdi al-Jawahiri wrote:
I see a horizon lit with blood,
And many a starless night.
A generation comes and another goes
And the fire keeps burning.