Last Updated:April 15 @ 10:13 pm

Anti-gun activists hard at work

By Laura Wides-Munoz

MIAMI (AP) - The civil rights groups that turned outrage over Trayvon Martin's death into action say their work is far from over now that his killer has been charged with second-degree murder. Next, they hope to harness the activism to challenge Florida's "stand your ground" law and similar statutes in 24 other states.

But they also worry about maintaining their momentum during what could be a long judicial process and translating it into political action that could help sway lawmakers. The leaders plan to use churches, social media and other means to rally the movement that has already prompted protesters to take to the streets in several major cities.

"Arresting Zimmerman is the beginning of the process. This is a first down, not a touchdown," the Rev. Jesse Jackson told The Associated Press this week from Houston, where he was talking to black church leaders about the Martin case, Florida's gun law and racial profiling.

Martin's death is also being used as a call to action by politicians such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and more traditional gun control groups including the Brady Campaign.

When prosecutors in Florida announced the second-degree murder charge against 28-year-old George Zimmerman on Wednesday, the Rev. Al Sharpton had just opened his National Action Network's annual conference in Washington. Sharpton said attendees immediately began discussing ways to keep attention on Martin's case and pressure governors and legislators to reconsider the self-defense laws.

"How did people hear about it in the first place? The kids heard about it on the radio. They heard about it on social media. That's what we need to continue," Sharpton said. "But school is going to be out soon, so you've got to have infrastructure that goes beyond the students, with black and minority media, with the churches."

His organization is calling for a national "stand your ground" rally on Sunday and plans to announce a rally outside the Florida Legislature in the coming days. Martin's parents are expected to speak at his conference Saturday. A pastor in Detroit is also planning a rally on Monday to support a teacher fired when she encouraged her students to raise money for Martin's family.

Elsewhere, pastors such as the Rev. Raphael Warnock, of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, are writing the case into their Sunday services.

And with 200,000 "likes," the Facebook page called "Justice for Trayvon Martin" is also keeping people informed. It continues to post about art, poetry and events organized in commemoration of the teen.

It's a continuation of an effort that began not long after Zimmerman shot and killed Martin on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. When no charges had been filed by early the next month, the Martin family's attorney, Benjamin Crump, reached out to civil rights leaders around the country.

Martin's parents and their supporters argued that race played a role in authorities' initial reluctance to bring charges. Martin was black, while Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is from Peru.

Rallies as far away as New York, Chicago and D.C. drew hundreds each, while more than a thousand protesters gathered in Miami and thousands more in Sanford. Protesters that included sports and film stars donned hooded sweatshirts like the one Martin was wearing when he was shot. The shooting was even discussed at presidential news conferences, and it became international news.

After an extraordinary 45-day campaign, the special prosecutor who took over the case charged Zimmerman. The neighborhood watch volunteer maintains that he shot the teen in self-defense after Martin attacked him. His attorney plans to cite Florida's "stand-your-ground law," which gives people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight. The law is also part of the reason why authorities were reluctant to charge Zimmerman in the first place.

A document filed by the special prosecutor alleges that Zimmerman followed and confronted the unarmed teen, even after a police dispatcher told him to back off. He is being held without bond.

Martin's parents say that they plan to keep up their efforts even if Zimmerman is convicted.

"We would just like for the world to know that we will continue to fight for other Trayvons out there," his father, Tracy Martin, recently told the AP. "This just doesn't stop with our child."

The call to overturn the so-called "stand your ground" laws is gaining support from leaders beyond the civil rights community. Citing Martin's death, Bloomberg launched a national campaign on Wednesday called "Second Chance at Shoot First" that seeks to repeal or reform the self-defense laws.

Even the gun-control group the Brady Campaign, formed in the 1980s following the attempted assassination of then President Ronald Reagan, is enjoying renewed attention. President Dan Gross plans to use the Martin case to fight proposed federal legislation that would force states with strict gun laws to recognize concealed weapons permits granted in states that have fewer requirements.

"We've been saying all along that the `stand your ground' laws - or the `shoot first and ask questions later' laws, as we call them - are only part of the issue," Gross said.

In Florida, a state senator recently convened a committee to review whether changes are needed to the state's self-defense laws. Gov. Rick Scott plans to convene a separate committee with a similar aim.

Still, advocates face a tough battle against an entrenched and well-funded gun-rights lobby.

The National Rifle Association, which opposes most gun control bills, spent more than $14 million on campaigns at the federal level during the last election cycle. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was the headline speaker at its national convention Friday in Missouri.

The NRA didn't immediately respond to a call on Friday seeking comment about the self-defense laws.

Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said the presidential election gives the activists leverage but cautioned that the pitch to change self-defense laws will be tough in states where gun rights are sacred.

"Policy changes are never quick," she said. "The bottom line is rapid policy changes have a much better chance when you have a very high profile, volatile issue like this one that reaches so many people."

Jackson doesn't expect any major changes to come quickly or easily, either.

"We must do some heavy lifting," he said. "This cannot be a fad where you wear the hoodie, the apparel, and then it goes away."

---

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Kyle Hightower in Stanford, Fla.; Mike Hightower in Detroit; Errin Haines in Atlanta and Sonya Rosss in Washington.

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11 Comments

  1. MichaellabordeComment by Michaellaborde
    April 14, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

    This is another avenue for the black supremacists to stop profiling that works and paint crooks and troublemakers as not bad people. “Take your eye off of the ball and get taken out. I for one believe that it is a tragedy that this person was killed but don’t believe that Zimmerman should be found guilty by the news media, the race baiters or their followers. Let the system work. I also don’t believe that Zimmerman can get a fair trial now that the whole world knows about this tragedy.

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  2. bna42Comment by bna42
    April 14, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

    “Arresting Zimmerman is the beginning of the process. This is a first down, not a touchdown,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson told The Associated Press this week.

    Exactly what I expected from this racist. However, EVERY church that gets involved in this political debate should be required to give up their tax-exampt status. Separation of church and state is only used when it is convenient to stifle white churches, but the black churches can get involved in politics any time they are instructed. Even Pelosi and Obama used churches to tell people to vote in favor of illegal immigration amnesty and Obamacare.

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  3. davidusafComment by davidusaf
    April 14, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

    The major problem with their argument is that, there are more whites killed by blacks than blacks killed by whites every year. There are even more blacks killed by blacks every year. None of these are done with a legally purchased gun. Laws like the Stand Your Ground law, Colrado’s Make my Day Law, and other similar laws have reduced crime and made the streets and neighborhoods safer. This is a proven fact.

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    • BobinmsComment by Bobinms
      April 14, 2012 @ 7:57 pm

      They don’t have to be logical. Just say it over and over and the illogical becomes logical. Take profiling. If you are looking for something, why in the world would you look where you think you won’t find it.

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    • elektron10Comment by elektron10
      April 14, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

      If a lie is told often enough, it will be believed as truth.

      Adolph Hitler

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  4. handymanherbComment by handymanherb
    April 14, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

    Single minded idiots, stand your ground is not needed when you are flat on your back with someone beating on you, you have no chance to flee.

    If a black would have shot Martin, it would have been of no use to Obama to make sure the idiots keep voting for him, so your would have never heard of it.

    If George Zimmerman didn’t have a gun he would have been killed and nothing would have been said about it!

    Why are we letting 14 percent of the people that are black, run what is news, they might as well riot and get it over with because Zimmerman will be found not guilty, I would say the Judge would dismiss it, but to much pressure by the 14 percent for them to do that.

    Just keep your weapon on so when the this is for Trayvon people show up, you can say and this for George.

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    • mjphyjrComment by mjphyjr
      April 14, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

      I may be mistaken, but the actual numbers from the census concerning the percentage of the population that is defined as “black,” is somewhere around 11.9%, not 14%, but this only further validates your point. And I have no doubt that Zimmerman will be convicted of whatever charge they end up charging him with, and he will get at least 20 to life. There was a pharmacist a couple of years ago in Oklahoma City who shot and killed a black teenager who came into his workplace with his buddy demanding drugs with a gun and a mask, and he got 20 to life, or something similar. Apparently he was only allowed to shoot the armed robber once instead of shooting the robber until he quit moving, and the character asassination performed on the pharmacist was atrocious, to say the least, with outright lies told about the man by both the media and prosecution that painted the pharmacist defending himself as a crazed gun-happy killer and the armed robber as a poor little angel who did nothing wrong. Nevermind the fact that the mother of the armed robber just collected a settlement from the pharmacy, and it was her boyfriend who sent the kid in to rob the pharmacy in the first place. The message has been sent; you cannot defend yourself against angry black teenagers if you are white or hispanic. You will be put in prison for the majority of the rest of your life. That’s just the way it is these days.

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  5. BillzillaComment by Billzilla
    April 14, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

    “Civil rights groups”? Jackson and Sharpton aren’t civil rights leaders, they’re racist bigots and rabble rousers! “Reconsider the self defense laws”? By that do they mean to disarm law abiding citizens to make them easier prey for thugs and criminals? Or perhaps, so that our Dear Leader, Barry Barrack the First has any opposition to his rule disarmed? Just askin’ mind ya.

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  6. gimmesometruthComment by gimmesometruth
    April 14, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

    Young black men and women want what everybody wants; economic security and a future to pursue their dreams. The Martin story is one more attempt by issue-whores to use this tragedy to push their narrow agenda of gun ownership suppression or race-baiting. Would their rhetoric be stifled if Mr. Zimmerman possessed a knife instead of a gun? A sharpened pencil can write a symphony or it can be plunged into an eye. Should it be banned? Their orchestrated protests are like ‘white noise’ that fills the background, but has no substance. Let’s all take a deep breath and allow the justice system to sort things out before we jump to false conclusions.

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  7. Pingback: Diersen’s News Clips and Upcoming Events; April 15, 2012 – They Don't Fool ME!

  8. TRUTHTELLERComment by TRUTHTELLER
    April 15, 2012 @ 10:51 pm

    We here in the People’s Republic of Mexifornia, have law enforcement policys that reward criminals that are shot by citizens, while they are committing violent crimes. Shoot a crook, and he or his family gets a lotto payday, you, most likely go to jail.

    Regardless of the above circumstances, if any scumbag crook, black, white, brown, yellow, red or any combination thereof, acosts me or my family with a gun, it will be the last act they perform, before they die. My friend, Mr. ’40 cal., is by my side mostly all the time and is always within easy reach at home.

    I have this philosophy, that I have adhered to all my adult life. I would rather be standing before 12 jurors in a courtroom, than being carried in a pine box, by six pall barers at my funeral.

    Nuff said.

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  9. RATComment by RAT
    April 16, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

    Like I said in the beginning. This is the purpose of the extreme Racism gatherings. Scream enough and then blame firearms. That in turn leads to control. Good Luck you Floridians you are going to need it. This is as close as Obama wants to get to firearms control until after his re-election if it happens, then it will become a MAJOR TOPIC of the Left and Obama will fall in with all his muscle. After all He has voted 11 times against firearms while in the Senate and in Chicago.

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  10. Pingback: The Trayvon Martin Case, Update 4: Geography and Narrative Analysis « Stately McDaniel Manor

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