Bill Cosby speaks against guns after Trayvon Martin death

The death of black teenager Trayvon Martin at the hands of a white neighbourhood watch volunteer in Florida has reignited America’s race relations debate, but veteran comedian and actor Bill Cosby is more worried about guns.

After weeks of campaigning by Martin’s parents, George Zimmerman is behind bars pending a trial for second-degree murder.

Cosby, who played the dad in hit 80s TV programme “The Cosby Show”, believes the killing may never have happened if Zimmerman were not armed with a gun.

“We’ve got to get the gun out of the hands of people who are supposed to be on neighbourhood watch,” he said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union”.

“Without a gun, I don’t see Mr Zimmerman approaching Trayvon by himself.

“The power-of-the-gun mentality had him unafraid to confront someone. Even police call for a backup in similar situations.

“When you carry a gun, you mean to harm somebody, kill somebody.”

Cosby’s own son, Ennis, was shot and killed in 1997 at the age of 28. Since then, Cosby has spoken out against the prevalence of guns in the United States.

“We need to get rid of it on the streets. And if people have one, they should be checked out so thoroughly,” he said.

The African-American actor used to own a firearm to protect his family but later decided to get rid of it.

He told CNN: "I also believe that when you tell me that you're going to protect the neighbourhood that I live in, I don't want you to have a gun.

"I want you to be able to see something, report it and get out of the way, because you happen to be a part of the neighbourhood.

"I don't want you to get hurt. And I don't want you to hurt anyone."