ST. LOUIS — A top National Rifle Association official levied sharp criticism against the national media on Saturday, accusing it of sensationalizing the Trayvon Martin case and ignoring other crimes that happen across the country every day.
NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre didn't mention the Martin case by name during his speech at the group's annual meeting in St. Louis, but he accused the media of "sensational reporting from Florida."
The 17-year-old Martin was unarmed when he was fatally shot Feb. 26 in Sanford by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense. Police initially didn't charge Zimmerman, prompting nationwide protests. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder last week.
The case has drawn new attention to self-defense laws that give people a broad right to use deadly force without having to retreat from a fight. The NRA strongly supports such statutes, known as "stand your ground" or "castle doctrine" laws, which are in effect in about 30 states.
Until Saturday, LaPierre had declined to comment on the Martin case, citing a need to learn all the facts. During the NRA gathering, he called the news media "a national disgrace." LaPierre said violent crime is an everyday fact of life in every American city.
"But the media, they don't care," LaPierre said. "Everyday victims aren't celebrities. They don't draw ratings, don't draw sponsors. But sensational reporting from Florida does. In the aftermath of one of Florida's many daily tragedies, my phone has been ringing off the hook" with calls from reporters.
Some gun-control advocates have seized on the shooting to renew debate about guns. Officials with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence have pledged to use the case to fight proposed federal legislation that would force states with strict gun laws to recognize concealed weapons permits granted in other states.