- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Five days after an Australian college student was gunned down by a trio of “bored” Oklahoma teens, the political and social reverberations continue to build across the nation and abroad.

While there’s been disgust and disbelief at the senseless death of Christopher Lane — who was studying in the U.S. on a baseball scholarship and visiting his girlfriend in Duncan, Okla., when he was shot while jogging on Friday — some former lawmakers and pundits say there’s a clear double standard in how President Obama and other political leaders, leading civil rights activists and the media have reacted to the case.

The shooting has sparked a different controversy in Mr. Lane’s native Australia, where much of the outrage has focused on what critics say is the American gun-friendly culture that made the killing possible.

The two teens facing murder charges in connection with the incident, James Francis Edwards Jr., 15, and Chancey Allen Luna, 16, are black. A third teen, 17-year-old Michael Dewayne Jones, who is white, has been charged with being an accessory to murder after the fact.

Contrasts have been drawn with reaction to the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and the subsequent acquittal of former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

“Three black teens shoot white jogger. Who will [Mr. Obama] identify with this time?” tweeted former Rep. Allen B. West, Florida Republican, echoing sentiments heard across Twitter and elsewhere in recent days by those who argue murders and other violent incidents are covered and discussed differently depending on the skin color of the victim and arrested suspects.

But the facts of the two cases are quite different, and some caution that drawing conclusions this soon — not even a week after Mr. Lane was killed, while 18 months and a racially charged trial have passed since the death of Trayvon Martin — is potentially dangerous.

“In the Trayvon Martin case, the key difference is that it took a very long time for George Zimmerman to be arrested and charged. Whereas in this case, these boys have been arrested and charged, and I think they’re going to pay dearly for what they did,” said Montre Carodine, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law and a specialist in race relations. “I also hope it’s clear to people that there are so many people in the black community who are outraged by [the Oklahoma shooting]. … People in the black community should be outraged.”

But Ms. Carodine also said there’s a clear difference in the coverage and perception of crimes in cases where the victim is white and the perpetrators black, as opposed to the reverse.

“There’s no getting around it,” she said.

In the days after Trayvon Martin was killed, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson joined thousands of others in protest marches in Florida, pushing for authorities to arrest and charge Mr. Zimmerman. Six weeks later, police did just that.

Just five days have passed since Mr. Lane was killed, but thus far, Mr. Jackson’s reaction has been much more reserved. He tweeted Wednesday that this type of violence must be “frowned upon.”

A month after Trayvon Martin was killed, Mr. Obama addressed the case from the White House. He did so again after Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted.

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he was “not familiar” with the specifics of the case, but added that it “sounds like a pretty tragic case.” He added that the administration doesn’t “want to get ahead of the legal process” in commenting on the incident.

In Australia, the racial angle seems to matter much less, Ms. Carodine said, while the seemingly violent American culture is making headlines. The country has far more restrictive gun ownership laws than the U.S.

Speaking on CNN Tuesday night, former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer said Australians considering travel to the U.S. “should think carefully about it, given the statistical fact you are 15 times more likely to be shot dead in the USA than in Australia.”

Ahron Young, Melbourne bureau chief for Sky News, told CNN the incident has struck a nerve in Australia.

“We’ve all heard about gun violence in America, but this has really brought it home to us here,” he said.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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