Trayvon Martin’s mother speaks out on gun laws

Hannah Hunsinger | The Collegian Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, wipes away tears while speaking about her son's death. Fulton spoke about gun violence and the Stand Your Ground Law at Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS on April 22, 2014.

Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, said the worst day of her life was not when she found out her youngest son was dead. It was the following Saturday morning, when she had to attend his funeral.

This insight was just one experience that Fulton spoke about to a crowd Tuesday evening in the ballroom of the K-State Student Union.

More than two years ago, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed during an altercation with George Zimmerman in Florida. The incident and ensuing trial was covered closely by national news outlets and political pundits alike.

Fulton was invited speak on campus by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, one of the sponsors of the event, as part of their Alpha Lecture Series. Jacar Union, graduate student in American ethnic studies and president of the K-State Alpha Phi chapter, said they wanted to bring in a thought provoking speaker.

“We thought it’d be a good idea to invite Ms. Fulton to talk about her experiences and give students a chance to learn from them,” Union said. “Bringing someone like this allows K-State students to better the future.”

Fulton co-founded the Trayvon Martin Foundation, a nonprofit group designed to support families affected by gun violence and increase awareness of the issue.

During her presentation, Fulton spoke out against the “stand your ground” law which played a vital role in the outcome of the criminal trial that followed Martin’s death. The law allows a person to use justifiable force for self-defense without being forced to retreat from the situation when they feel threatened. Many states, including Kansas, have some form of the law.

“I was robbed,” Fulton said in reference to her son’s death. “You mean to tell me no one is going to jail for it?”

Demond Handley, freshman in mathematics, said he agreed with Fulton.

“It’s not a clearly defined law,” Handley said. “There’s just too much leeway.”

Union said he opposes the law as well.

“I agree with her stance,” Union said. “I believe no one has the right to take the life of another individual. It’s just not a very good law.”

Fulton also spoke out against racial profiling, the law enforcement practice of targeting people for suspicion of a crime based on their race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. She then asked the audience how many people wore hoodies; Martin was wearing a hoodie when he was shot.

“I know that racial profiling still exists,” Fulton said. “A hoodie doesn’t make someone suspicious.”

She also said she wanted people to know more about the incident than what was covered on the news.

“It’s important that you see a face related to someone you’ve seen on TV for the past two years,” Fulton said.

She encouraged the audience to be educated about the law and to be informed voters. Fulton added that she knew nothing about the “stand your ground” law prior to her son’s death. In the prosecution case against Zimmerman, his attorneys did not use the law in his defense.

Following the lecture, a Q-and-A session allowed audience members to ask Fulton questions.

In response to a question on gun laws, Fulton said she grew up the daughter of a policeman and was not opposed to guns.

“I don’t have anything against guns,” Fulton said. “There are responsible gun owners. Then, there are irresponsible gun owners who chase kids.”

Fulton said her faith has helped her through the death of her son and what makes her continue her work through the foundation.

“I speak for Trayvon Martin and all the Trayvon Martins you don’t hear about,” Fulton said.