Bill Cosby spoke out on the Trayvon Martin case for the first time Friday, telling the Washington Times in an interview for a Monday story that he thinks Martin's shooter, George Zimmerman, was in the thrall of a power-of-the-gun mentality when he pulled the trigger, killing the unarmed 17-year-old on Feb. 26.

A national conversation about race has erupted in the days since Martin's death, and black leaders from Al Sharpton to President Barack Obama have weighed in with their own thoughts on the Trayvon Martin case.

On Monday, Bill Cosby broke his silence on Trayvon Martin, telling the Washington Times that he believes that the gun is at the heart of the social woes that coalesced in the tragedy of Martin's death on the streets of a Florida gated community.

We've got to get the gun out of the hands of people who are supposed to be on neighborhood watch, Bill Cosby told the paper. 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 backup in similar situations.

Bill Cosby, 74, has long been an influential voice in the black community, and his words Friday on the topic of Martin's death were very measured in comparison to those of many commentators. A vicious race war of words has emerged since Martin's death, and  Cosby's remarks were not inflammatory, focusing on the issues that led to such a tragedy, rather than ad hominem attacks and name-calling, which some commentators both black and white have been relying upon.

The comedian and actor, best known for his role on The Cosby Show, which broke racial ground on American television, has been vocal on other issues related to race in the past, and Bill Cosby's words on the Trayvon Martin case are likely to resonate.