After Zimmerman arrest, activists look to gun laws

By Laura Wides-munoz

Associated Press

Published: Friday, April 13 2012 2:21 p.m. MDT

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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