Ad Dramatizes Trayvon Martin Shooting

Aug 21, 2013
Originally published on August 21, 2013 1:52 pm

The Trayvon Martin shooting is at the center of a new video that advocates changing gun policy. The internet video reenacts George Zimmerman's shooting of the unarmed Florida teen, and includes tape from the 9-1-1 calls that night.

At the end of the ad, the camera slowly pans over a scene of several young people, all wearing hoodies, all lying across the ground as if they had been shot. Finally a message comes on screen, asking viewers to fight so-called 'Stand Your Ground' laws across the country. The video comes from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Josh Horwitz, the organization's Executive Director, joined Celeste Headlee on Tell Me More today.

"I think those pictures of George Zimmerman have been shown ad nauseum [to] the public. I think what hasn't been shown is the true affects of 'stand your ground.' Every time someone claims a stand your ground defense there's a dead body at the other side. And we don't talk about that enough."

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The Trayvon Martin shooting is at the center of a new video that advocates changing gun policy. The Internet video recreates, to a certain extent, George Zimmerman's shooting of the unarmed Florida teen, and it includes tape from the 911 calls from that night. Here's an excerpt.


UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR #1: All right, sir, what is your name?


UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: I think they're yelling help, but I don't know. It sounds like someone's saying, stop.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR #2: Does he look hurt?


CALLER: I can't see him. I don't want to go out there. I don't know what's going on, so...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Get your coat - in the car.

CALLER: They're screaming.


911 OPERATOR #2: Do you think he's yelling help?



CALLER: There's gunshots. (Whispering) Down! Get down.

HEADLEE: At the end of the ad, the camera slowly pans over a scene of several young people. They're all wearing hoodies. They're all lying across the ground as if they'd been shot, and finally, a message comes on screen asking viewers to fight so-called "Stand Your Ground" laws across the country. To form your own opinion, I highly suggest you watch it for yourself. The video comes from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and Josh Horowitz, the organization's executive director, joins me now in our Washington, D.C. studios. Welcome.

JOSH HOROWITZ: Thanks for having me.

HEADLEE: Even just listening to that 911 tape now, it's chilling. You yourself describe it as chilling. Why bring back to us such a really upsetting moment?

HOROWITZ: It is - an upsetting moment and it's an upsetting moment for a lot of different people. But I think one of the things that we've learned the hard way is that when the public are focused on these things, it's the time to make a point. And if we waited a year, the point would be lost, and while people still understand what was going on, are still focused on it, it's the time to do it. I'll never forget, after the Virginia Tech shooting, we sort of stood down for a week or so and thought about it and we were asked to show a lot of respect. Later, I met the survivors of the Virginia Tech shooting, and many of them said, we wish you were out there on the first day. So I think we honor the survivors and victims of these shootings by getting to work immediately on these things.

HEADLEE: Did you speak with the Martin family about this ad before you made it?

HOROWITZ: I have not spoken with the Martin family on this. This is something that...

HEADLEE: ...At all?

HOROWITZ: I have not spoken with the Martin family. I was on a show yesterday with Benjamin Crump, their attorney. They have not contacted us about this, and of course, if they did, we would of course listen to what they had to say. But, you know, they have been very adamant about repealing these laws, and we feel like we're contributing to that effort.

HEADLEE: What about the idea that the shooting - Trayvon Martin, obviously, very tragically lost his life. This was an unarmed young man, but this was a tragedy for George Zimmerman, as well, right? I mean, you could make a PSA from George Zimmerman's point of view, showing a very upsetting, chilling video of a man who was in fear of his life.

HOROWITZ: You could, sure. You could make that video, but I think it's important to tell the story of Trayvon Martin. And I think just because George Zimmerman was acquitted, doesn't mean he didn't do anything wrong. And I think when you listen to the PSA and you listen to the actual 911 tapes, the operator said don't get out of your car, don't follow this person. But armed with a concealed carry permit and a weapon and knowing about Stand Your Ground law, we feel that emboldened him to go down that alley and Trayvon Martin, an unarmed young man, is dead.

HEADLEE: George Zimmerman's brother, you may have seen, has tweeted about this ad. He says you failed to show the injuries that his brother sustained that night. Why - let me take you back to the - elaborate a little bit on the previous question. Why not maybe have an accompanying ad saying Stand Your Ground hurts everybody?

HOROWITZ: I think the ad shows that pretty clearly. I think those pictures of George Zimmerman have been showed ad nauseam in the public. I think what hasn't been shown is the true effects of Stand Your Ground. Every time someone claims a Stand Your Ground defense, there's a dead body at the other side, and we don't talk about that enough. We can show violence in Egypt - the bloody things we've seen the last week - but we sanitize what happens in the United States, and I think this video, I think, tastefully evokes what really happens when somebody gets shot and someone then claims Stand Your Ground defense.

HEADLEE: To be fair, George Zimmerman did not use the Stand Your Ground as a defense in his trial. So maybe the Trayvon Martin shooting was not about "Stand Your Ground."

HOROWITZ: Well, I think, you know, that's sort of a fallacy that some people have been trying to push, that this wasn't about "Stand Your Ground." First of all, "Stand Your Ground" came up at the trial. George Zimmerman had taken a self-defense class where "Stand Your Ground" was discussed. But most importantly, when the jury got into their deliberations and they opened their jury instructions, they found the "Stand Your Ground" jury instruction in their packet. So is it - do you have to mount, you know, talk a lot about "Stand Your Ground" or just giving them the papers with what the laws is - that's what jury instructions are.

And what's interesting about the new Florida jury instructions is before 2005, there's a very different instruction. And if the jury had gone back and opened up their package of instructions, it would have said something like, you know, if there was an opportunity to get out of the situation without taking human life, you had to do it. The new jury instruction, which the jury had - it's in their instruction packet - talked about "Stand Your Ground" and not having to exit a situation. And so we really believe that change is part of this picture and people need to understand that now juries in Florida routinely get the "Stand Your Ground" defense as part of their jury instructions.

HEADLEE: What was - I mean, there was a good intent - was there a good intent behind "Stand Your Ground" when it was first bounced around as an idea do you think? This idea that you can defend yourself?

HOROWITZ: Look, I think that there's never been a good rationale for "Stand Your Ground." We have, in the United States, we have a very, I would say, liberal interpretation of self-defense. There's never been a case - and there was never a case discussed in Florida prior to "Stand Your Ground" that made any sense. If you're in a situation out in the street where you cannot get out of the way, you cannot get out of harms way, you - you know, under the law of this country and the law of these states, of course you can defend yourself. There's a very robust self-defense law in states that don't have "Stand Your Ground." But this - what's different about "Stand Your Ground" is that when you have the option to leave the situation, you don't have to take it.

And so there's just no cases out there where, you know, juries are over reached and were starting to convict people wrongly. That's just not the case. This was pushed, I believe, by the National Rifle Association with their friends at the American Legislative Exchange Counsel to 26 states as a way to normalize gun carrying, gun - you know, public gun carrying. And we think that that should not be normalized. And there's just never been a good instance where this made any sense.

HEADLEE: What are you hoping people take away - what are you hoping - what action do you hope that they take?

HOROWITZ: Well, what we really want to do is we want to galvanize people to action in the upcoming legislative sessions. We think that obviously in places like Florida and Louisiana and Ohio - and some of these other states - that people should take action and make it very clear to the legislators that this is - look, this is a change in American jurisprudence. This jurisprudence goes back to the Jewish Bible about sparing human life, through the common law, through most of American law. And we think that we should morally, ethically and legally roll this law back because it is - every instance of its use is a dead body.

HEADLEE: Well, the ad is controversial, as I can only imagine that you intended it to be. So again, if you're listening, make up your own mind. Take a look at it yourself. Josh Horowitz is the executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and he joined us here in our Washington, D.C. studios. Thank you so much.

HOROWITZ: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.