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NRA official accuses media of sensationalizing Trayvon Martin story

Christian Gooden / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

Top NRA executive Wayne LaPierre Jr.
speaks at the gun-rights organization's annual meeting in St. Louis on Saturday.

ST. LOUIS -- A top National Rifle Association official on Saturday accused the media of sensationalizing the Trayvon Martin case and ignoring other crimes that happen across the country every day.

Speaking at the NRA’s annual meeting, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre didn't mention the Martin case by name during his speech. But he accused the media of "sensational” reporting from Florida and criticized coverage of gun issues in general.

"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, he said.

LaPierre listed several killings in cities across the country, including one in St. Louis this week, that he said have been ignored as the media focused on the Martin case.

"You reporters, you don't care about those people," he said of the other victims.

The Trayvon Martin case has focused national attention on so-called "Stand Your Ground" laws in a number of states that provide broader grounds to claim a shooting was in self-defense.

Police in Florida initially declined to arrest George Zimmerman, the man who shot Martin, citing the state's law allowing the use of deadly force when a person feels threatened. A special prosecutor earlier this week charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder.

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The NRA has been the chief backer of Stand Your Ground laws. Versions of these laws, also referred to as the "Castle Doctrine" because they allow citizens to use force protect their homes, are in effect in 30 states including Florida.

NBC's Michael Isikoff reports.

At the NRA annual meeting on Saturday, the organization celebrated its success in passing the laws, showing a video to the membership of a young mother in Oklahoma, Sarah McKinley, who shot dead a knife-wielding home invader on New Year's Eve.

Authorities decided not to charge her, citing the state's law allowing the use of force in self-defense.

"We always as members of the NRA Stand our Ground," LaPierre said.

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Some gun-control advocates have seized on the Martin 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 that have fewer requirements.

"George Zimmerman is the NRA," the group's president, Dan Gross, said in a statement earlier this week. "And Florida's 'Shoot First, Ask Questions Later' law and the paranoid mentality it promotes are products of the NRA's vision for America, where just about anybody can get and use a gun just about anywhere."

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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