08/29/2013 05:09 pm ET Updated Oct 26, 2013

The Legacy of Trayvon Martin: Race Complicates the Discussion About Gun Responsibility

There was a recent lull in the acrimonious gun control debate until last week when three Oklahoma teenagers, two black and one white, gunned down a visiting Australian teenager named Christopher Lane out for a jog.

Although an estimated 36,000 murders by guns take place in this country each year -- that's four people being gunned down an hour -- this particular murder caught the attention first of incendiary "conservative" pundits such as Rush Limbaugh and then became sensationalist fodder for the 24-7 news cycle.

The reason: It was immediately, and wrongfully, framed as a "black on white" killing, the reverse to the gunning down of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida.

That shooting spawned nasty racial profiling arguments. It devolved into an inane debate over the symbolism of hoodies, from a host of civil rights leaders and even President Obama.

In this instance, Lane's death, termed a "thrill kill," should be framed as a tragic death of a promising young athlete perpetrated by amoral, sick teenagers with questionable access to firearms.

The media discussion should center on the ruthless criminality that causes these hourly killings and a gun control discussion not on limiting Americans' access to firearms, but how to limit the use of them by the bad guys, deranged individuals, and even children subject to incessant violence in the media.

Instead, it has spawned a gotcha double-standard dialogue that heightens racial passions in the U.S.

The facts: Lane went out for a jog while visiting his girlfriend in Duncan, Oklahoma. Three teenagers, ages 15, 16 and 17, shot him as he passed the home of one of the shooters.

According to police, Lane was shot "at random" and "for the fun of it" by the shooters, one who confessed this to police.

"They saw Christopher go by, and one of them said: 'There's our target,'" said Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford. "The boy who has talked to us said, 'We were bored and didn't have anything to do, so we decided to kill somebody.' "

And despite some racially motivated tweets by one of the defendants, Oklahoma officials are not calling it a crime based on Lane's race.

"At this point, the evidence does not support the theory that Christopher Lane was targeted based upon his race or nationality," District Attorney Jason Hicks said in a statement.

Instead of making Lane's murder a discussion of a racially motivated shooting, Americans should be examining the root causes of this and other such too common shootings in terms of their access to guns.

The real question: Why did these kids have unsupervised access to a .22 caliber handgun and a shotgun?

We have become too desensitized to such violence, failing to debate the causes behind the misuse of firearms by some Americans who have no regard for the responsibilities that go with the ownership and use of lethal weapons.

It is just not the shooters. It's also those who own firearms who fail to lock them or who misuse their Second Amendment rights to obtain weapons for criminals.

It's also those who deal or sell them indiscriminately to people they know or should know are dangerous, mentally ill, or just plain reckless.

The Newtown massacre was wrongfully seized upon as an opportunity to tighten gun control on responsible gun owners.

Limiting the number of bullets in a gun's chamber does nothing if a gun falls into the wrong hands. One shot killed Chris Lane.

Instead, the key question arising for Newtown should have been how the mentally deranged Adam Lanza got hold of the guns from his mother's arsenal.

Forget whether shooters and the innocents they kill or maimed are black or white.

Working on returning the utmost respect for the sanctity of securing firearms and reestablishing the severity of the violent consequences of pulling the trigger is the real discussion we should be having as the result of the wanton murder of Chris Lane.

Published in Context Florida in last week of August, 2013.

Steven Kurlander is an attorney and communications strategist who blogs at Kurly's Kommentary, the Florida Squeeze, Context Florida, and the Huffington Post. He can be emailed at