Trayvon Martin's mother in Bloomberg gun control video

Reuters News

5/11/2012 4:18:46 PM - Reuters News

By Chris Francescani

(Reuters) - The mother of Florida shooting victim Trayvon Martin appears in a Mother's Day gun control video produced by an advocacy group led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Martin, 17, was shot and killed on the night of February 26 in the central Florida town of Sanford following an encounter with armed neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who said he acted in self-defense.

Police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman, 28, in the shooting of the unarmed black teenager, citing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law.

Florida, which has some of the most lenient gun laws in the nation, enacted the self-defense measure in 2005, which provides people wide latitude to use deadly force if they fear bodily harm. The law is now in effect in more than 20 states.

Noting that "this will be my first Mother's Day without my son, Trayvon," Sybrina Fulton asks viewers to urge their state governors "to re-examine similar Stand Your Ground laws throughout the nation to keep our families safe."

"Nobody can bring our children back," Fulton says in the video, released on Thursday to several websites by a Bloomberg-led gun control coalition called Second Chance on Shoot First.

"But it would bring us comfort if we can help spare other mothers the pain that we will feel on Mother's Day and every day for the rest of our lives."

Forty-five days after the shooting, following the appointment of a special prosecutor and protest marches across the country, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder in the racially charged case.

He pleaded not guilty to the charge and is free on bail.

"SHOOT FIRST" LAWS

Bloomberg and Florida State Senator Chris Smith launched Second Chance on Shoot First last month in partnership with several civil rights groups.

Bloomberg often refers to the Stand Your Ground laws as "shoot first" laws.

"I hope Sybrina Fulton's courage will persuade state legislators to take a second look at shoot first laws and take a second chance to get them right," Bloomberg said in a statement.

Bloomberg is one of the nation's most outspoken mayors on the issue of gun control. He has crafted gun law legislation at the local and national level, formed a gun control coalition that counts at least 600 U.S. mayors, and in 2006 directed city attorneys to sue out-of-state gun dealers whose weapons were used in crimes in New York City.

Florida, like many other states, has long held citizens have the right to defend themselves in their own homes, a legal precedent known as the castle doctrine.

Court rulings have expanded that right to include employees in workplaces and drivers in their cars. But Florida courts expressed reluctance to extend those rights to public places, with judges ruling that citizens under threat must make some effort to escape danger without resorting to violence.

In 2005 Florida lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a "Stand Your Ground" bill that eliminated the requirement to flee, and then-Governor Jeb Bush signed it into law.

The National Rifle Association, which has led pro-gun legislation lobbying efforts in Florida and other states, did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

(Reporting by Chris Francescani; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Xavier Briand)