US gun store sells painting by shooter in racially charged case

 George Zimmerman in a 2013 photo provided by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office.
George Zimmerman in a 2013 photo provided by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office.PHOTO: AFP

MIAMI (AFP) - A Florida gun store is selling copies of a painting of the Confederate flag by George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed a black teenager in 2012.

According to the website of Florida Gun Supply, the proceeds will be shared between Zimmerman and store owner Andy Hallinan, who has come under criticism for recently declaring his store "Muslim-free." The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a lawsuit against Hallinan on July 29 alleging discrimination and segregation.

After hearing about that lawsuit Zimmerman stopped work on a painting of an American flag and painted over it with the controversial Confederate battle flag, according to the store's website.

It says the two men hope to use proceeds from the sale of the flag painting "to support their legal funds, living expenses, and advancing their mission to change the country".

The flag, carried by Southern soldiers in the Civil War, has long been a controversial symbol and was recently removed from the South Carolina state house grounds after nine black residents were killed in a church there by a white supremacist who had photographed himself holding the flag.

Even before the shooting, the flag was viewed as a racist symbol by many, who had long called for its removal from public property across the South.

Zimmerman and Hallinan take a different view. "You cannot assume everyone who flies a Confederate Flag is racist in the same way that you cannot judge every Muslim to be a terrorist, or every gun owner to be a serial killer," the store's website says.

Zimmerman, 31, killed a teenager, Trayvon Martin, in 2012 in Sanford, Florida, sparking a case that gained national attention, but which ultimately resulted in his acquittal.

He has since worked on paintings of an American flag, which sold for $100,000 on eBay, as well as one of the Florida prosecutor who had charged him with murder in 2012.