The National Rifle Association on Wednesday accused Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration of exploiting the death of Travyon Martin for their own gain.
"The attorney general fails to understand that self-defense is not a concept, it's a fundamental human right,” said NRA executive director Chris Cox in a written statement. “To send a message that legitimate self-defense is to blame is unconscionable, and demonstrates once again that this administration will exploit tragedies to push their political agenda."
The NRA’s response comes on the heels of Holder’s comments on Tuesday at the NAACP national convention in Orlando. During a speech, he argued that controversial stand your ground laws encourage more clashes and may "undermine public safety."
"It's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods," Holder said. “We must stand our ground to ensure that our laws reduce violence and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.” He also cited the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin as “unnecessary.”
Zimmerman’s defense team did not employ a "stand your ground" defense. Zimmerman said he acted in self defense, shooting Martin after the 17-year-old attacked him.
On Saturday, a jury acquitted Zimmerman of second degree of murder and manslaughter.
In Florida, Section Three of the Stand Your Ground law states, "A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."
Across the country, more than 20 states have adopted NRA-backed legislation that does not require a person to retreat from an attacker before using deadly force.
Following the not guilty verdict, President Obama urged the nation to reflect on gun control laws as a way to honor Martin’s legacy.
"We should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this,” said the president. “As citizens, that's a job for all of us. That's the way to honor Trayvon Martin."
Civil rights leaders, including Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, have been calling on states to get rid of Stand Your Ground laws.