The Florida man who shot and killed black teenager Trayvon Martin in an incident that triggered nationwide civil rights protests will auction the gun he used on Thursday and spend some of the proceeds to challenge gun control policies, the auction website said.
The U.S. Department of Justice recently returned to George Zimmerman the Kel Tec 9mm pistol that he had used to kill the unarmed Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, according to Gunbroker.com, the website where the weapon is being sold.
Zimmerman described the gun as “a piece of American history,” according to the site.
The one-day auction is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) on Thursday, with bidding starting at $5,000.
The Trayvon Martin Foundation “has no comment on the actions of that person that murdered Trayvon,” Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, said in a statement.
Zimmerman, who was a neighborhood watch volunteer at the time, said the shooting was in self-defense. Martin’s family said the teenager was simply passing through the residential area on his way home from a convenience store.
Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the incident that sparked civil rights rallies and shone a spotlight on Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law.
President Barack Obama said after Zimmerman’s acquittal that Martin “could have been me, 35 years ago” and urged Americans to understand the pain African Americans felt over the case.
“George Zimmerman” quickly became the top trending term on Twitter in the United States, with many users on the social media site expressing shock and revulsion.
“The only people worse than George Zimmerman are the people who bid on that gun,” tweeted the writer, Lyz Lenz.
National Review columnist Charles C. W. Cooke said Zimmerman “may have acted legally, but the man is a sociopath.”
On the auction website, Zimmerman said he planned to use part of the proceeds to fight Black Lives Matter, a rights movement that grew out of the incident, as well as to counter “violence against law enforcement officers.”
Proceeds would also go toward fighting Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s “anti-firearm rhetoric,” he said.
“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,” he said on the site.
The number from the Martin case is written on the pistol in silver permanent marker and “many have expressed interest in owning and displaying the firearm,” he said in the description.
In a phone interview with a local broadcaster on Wednesday, Zimmerman brushed off those critical of the auction.
“They’re not going to be bidding on it, so I couldn’t care less about them,” he told Orlando TV station WOFL.
Zimmerman, who has had brushes with law enforcement since his acquittal, was the target of an attempted murder by Matthew Apperson in a Florida road dispute in May 2015, according to prosecutors.
He told WOFL that he had received death threats while in hiding after killing Martin, and that he had received more threats to his life since the gun sale was announced.
“What I’ve decided to do is not cower,” he said. “I’m a free American. And I can do what I like with my possessions.”
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Additional reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, Amy Tennery in New York, and Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem; Editing by Bernadette Baum)