The George Zimmerman trial has stoked passionate debate about race in America. But in the end, it could end up saying more about Americans' evolving views of the Second Amendment.
The George Zimmerman murder trial has long been seen as a barometer for America’s views on race. But some legal experts say the verdict could say much more about a different national conversation: How America sees the evolving role of guns in society.
Certainly race is an issue in the case – and a big one. As jury selection continues for an eighth day in Sanford, Fla., some jurors have said they fear civil unrest, and even personal danger, should Mr. Zimmerman be found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.
But while inequities and racism remain, the nation is moving toward greater integration and racial understanding, says Doug Keene, a jury expert in Austin, Texas, who blogs on “The Jury Room.” Gun rights, however, remain highly contentious, with no indication that Americans are moving toward any consensus.
Indeed, the Zimmerman trial comes as America is conflicted over gun policy after last year’s mass killings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn. Given that the trial could turn on the question of whether the defendant used his gun in a responsible – if deadly – manner, it could play an important role in influencing the national debate.
“The public conversation about race tilts toward a more enlightened attitude about civil rights, but the conversation about guns is extremely conflicted, regional, socioeconomic, and divided in every conceivable way,” says Mr. Keene. “This year, for all the tragic reasons we’re aware of, gun policy has become a constant presence … in our neighborhood conversations, and the lack of agreement on correct policy about guns is going to be one of the legacies of this trial.”