WASHINGTON — President Obama called on Americans to observe “calm reflection” after a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
The White House has rarely commented on the George Zimmerman trial even as it captured national attention. On Saturday, the jury reached its decision, clearing Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter.
“I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken,” Obama said, in a written statement released by the White House press office. “I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.”
Zimmerman shot and killed Martin in February 2012, and while the state brought charges of second-degree murder and argued that Zimmerman “profiled” Martin, who was African American, Zimmerman maintains he shot the teenager in self defense.
The case brought national attention to Florida gun policies, specifically the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people fearing for their lives to use deadly force.
Zimmerman’s trial has overlapped with Obama’s push this year to enact new gun restrictions, a major White House initiative since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December. Congress has declined to pass measures Obama has sought, including expanded background checks and a ban on assault rifles.
Obama commented on Martin’s death in March 2012, the month after his shooting.
“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” Obama said during a press conference in the Rose Garden, directing his comments towards Martin’s parents. “And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”
Today, Obama repeated his statement that Martin’s death is a tragedy and called on Americans to reflect on their own communities and the broader problem of gun deaths.
“The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America,” Obama said.
“I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. 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,” Obama said.
“We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin,” the president said.