Obama uses Zimmerman verdict to urge less gun violence, more federal intervention

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama issued a statement Sunday saying that the Trayvon Martin case should spur action on community “compassion” and “gun violence,” but made no mention of George Zimmerman, who is facing widespread anger and threats following his acquittal by a jury, and offered no reassurances of his safety.

“I know this case has elicited strong passions,” said the president, who stirred those passions last March with an emotional claim in the White House’s Rose Garden that “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

“I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son,” said Obama, who swore to uphold the nation’s laws during his 2009 and 2013 inaugurations.

His short statement began by declaring that “the death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America.”

But he quickly harnessed the controversy to his ongoing effort to curb citizens’ ownership of guns.

“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. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin,” Obama said. (RELATED: White House distances itself from Trayvon Martin case, Obama’s previous comments)

Obama has used other shootings, most notably the killing of 20 children and six teachers in the Sandy Hook school massacre last December, to focus criticism on the GOP’s support for gun-rights.

Some Republicans suspect that Obama’s fight over gun-rights is intended to help boost turnout of Democratic-leaning voters during the 2014 midterm elections.

In the 2012, amid the uproar over the Zimmerman case and repeated Democratic claims that GOP leaders were trying to suppress voting by African-Americans,  turnout by African-American voters stayed far above historical levels, helping Obama win re-election. At the same time, Obama’s deputies also sent at least one person to work with Democratic-affiliated protesters in Florida who were urging that Zimmerman be charged with murder. The effort by the department’s Community Relations Service, were exposed by documents obtained by the watchdog group Judicial Watch.

In his many comments about guns, however, Obama has downplayed the large-scale shootings in his adopted home town of Chicago. From January to July 4, 200 people were murdered by people in the city, whose government is dominated by Democrats. On Saturday evening, for example, eight people — including two elderly women — were wounded in multiple shootings in the city.

Obama also suggested today that the Florida controversy might justify for further federal intervention in Americans’ social lives.

“We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities,” he said in the statement.

In prior statements, Obama has highlighted his progressive view that federal government should play a larger part in Americans’ lives, usually at the expense of non-government groups, such as churches, unions, companies and civic groups, which are now struggling amid much increased social diversity.

“In this democracy, we the people recognize that this government belongs to us… the government is us,” Obama said during a July 8 speech at the White House.

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