Video PSA takes on 'stand your ground' laws

New video from Coalition to Stop Gun Violence re-creates night of Trayvon Martin shooting

As the nation continues its dialogue on race and gun violence, a new video campaign that re-creates the final moments of Trayvon Martin’s life calls on people to “stand up to ‘stand your ground’” laws.

The video, created by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, comes a month after nationwide protests and calls to repeal “stand your ground” laws in more than 30 states following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Martin in February 2012.

President Barack Obama also weighed in on the verdict, calling on Americans to re-examine the laws.

Ladd Everitt, the director of communications for the CSGV, says the video is about getting people to place themselves at the scene and analyze things differently.

“What we were trying to achieve with the video is really to make it much more personal for these people," said Everitt. "Not a lot of people have taken a step back and said, ‘What would it have been like to have been there that night?’”

The video shows a would-be Zimmerman running through the neighborhood in the rain as he follows Martin. Audio is heard from the 911 calls Zimmerman and neighbors made the night of Martin's death. In the last moments, the PSA calls on viewers to sign a petition to fight "stand your ground" laws around the country.

Zimmerman, a former neighborhood-watch member in Sanford, Fla., said he shot 17-year-old Martin in self-defense on Feb. 26, 2012. Martin, who was unarmed, was visiting his father that weekend and returning home from a store when Zimmerman begin following him, based on the suspicion that Martin might have been connected with a recent string of burglaries in the neighborhood.

The two confronted each other and an altercation ensued, leaving Martin dead.

"Stand your ground" laws dominated the national conversation as a result of the Zimmerman trial. Zimmerman could have sought to use the Florida law as a defense for his actions, but decided instead to have a trial by jury. He was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges on July 13, 2013.

"Stand your ground" laws have been highly controversial. In a Quinnipiac University poll published on Aug. 2, a majority of Americans (53-40 percent) supported the laws, which give a person the right to use deadly force in private or in public, even if the person has the option to retreat. However, the poll was split sharply along racial, political and gender lines, with the majority of blacks, women and Democrats opposing the laws.

Activist groups have rallied against "stand your ground" laws enacted around the country. One Florida group, the Dream Defenders, held a sit-in for 31 days in the office of Republican Gov. Rick Scott to urge him to convene a special session of the legislature to enact “Trayvon’s Law.” That bill would repeal “stand your ground” and tackle other issues that disproportionately affect African-Americans and Latinos.

RELATED: Florida sit-in against ‘stand your ground’ law

"We want 'stand your ground' to be repealed or reformed in a manner that makes us safer," Ahmad Abuznaid, the legal and political director of the Dream Defenders, told Al Jazeera. "Our job is to fight for these causes and not just for the remembrance of Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis (another black Florida teen who was shot and killed). As each day goes by we are losing young black and brown lives in this state. The story of Jordan Davis, of Trayvon Martin, is a daily reality for us."

'Stand your ground' by state

More than 30 states have some form of ‘stand your ground’ laws, which are strongly supported by the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action.

A request for comment from the NRA was not returned by deadline.

Much like the Dream Defenders, the CSGV says its long-term goal is to repeal such laws “wherever they exist.”

“I’m under no illusion that it’s going to be easy. I don’t think it’s going to be any easier than federal gun reform, but we’re going to do it,” Everitt said, alluding to Congress’ failed attempts to pass a national background-check law following the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn. “It’s not going to happen in a year, it’s not going to happen in five years, it’s going to take a long time. But we will do it.”

The nonprofit Children’s Defense Fund published a report in the wake of the Newtown shooting, which killed 20 children, that says 20 children a week are killed as a result of gun violence, and specifically targets the NRA over its efforts to block increased gun-safety measures.

RELATED: New report shows high cost of gun violence among America’s youth

Everitt said the CSGV is focused on a long-haul fight to beat back "stand your ground" and on building an enduring movement.

“I don’t think people are ever going to forget about the Trayvon Martin case,” he said. “When the Trayvon Martin case happened, I thought about the Emmett Till case. I think this has become one of those historical touchstones that people will never forget.”

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