TAMPA, Fla. -- Six weeks have passed since Trayvon Martin was shot and killed and despite the marches, the protests, and the petitions, the powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association has remained silent, until now.
David Keene is the president of the NRA. He says, "We have two positions, really. The first one is I watched television just like you have from the other side of the camera and there must be 100 people on television who weren't there but know exactly what happened. They disagree. I wasn't there and I don't know what happened. The facts of that case need to be decided in a courtroom. We don't know what the facts were, but everything we've looked at tells me it doesn't have anything to do with the Stand Your Ground law."
Keene made those comments while dozens protested outside the NRA's annual meeting and exhibit this weekend in St. Louis, where some 70,000 people are expected. The gathering runs through Sunday.
Another top National Rifle Association official says the media is sensationalizing the Trayvon Martin case and ignoring crimes that happen every day nationwide.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre didn't specifically mention the Martin case but accused the media of "sensational reporting from Florida."
Martin was unarmed when he was fatally shot Feb. 26 in Sanford, Florida by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who was charged with second-degree murder last week. Police initially didn't charge Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense.
The case has drawn new attention to laws like the one invoked by Zimmerman that give people broad rights to use deadly force in self-defense. The NRA supports such laws, which are in effect in about 30 states.
10 News spoke with high-profile criminal defense attorney Barry Cohen about Florida's Stand Your Ground law this week. Cohen says, "I think the law is ridiculous. The law is the result of the power - in my opinion - of the NRA...because anyone who can read and understands what goes on out in the streets knows that this is a bad law. This is a vigilante law. This permits people to kill people wrongfully and it needs to be changed."
Cohen adds, "The NRA puts a lot of money in these legislators pockets and they become like puppets. 'Why should I upset the NRA? They'll run somebody against me. What do I need that aggravation for? I can do this in the name of making it tough on crime.'"
Cohen continues, "Well that's just a rationalization. This is a wrong law. People who voted for it did it because they thought they were being politically pressured to do what the NRA wanted. They've got no backbone - except for the backbone of a protozoan."
Republican Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrinch spoke at the NRA meeting in St. Louis. Even though Rick Santorum has dropped out of the race he told the crowd he just purchased an NRA membership for his youngest daughter Bella.
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