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 here, but he accused the media of "sensational reporting from Florida." Martin, 17, was unarmed when he was fatally shot Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., 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."
Meanwhile, another controversy was swirling around the case on Saturday.
The head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm has condemned the response of many black leaders to the Martin case as "shameful." Some black pastors say Richard Land's comments are setting back an effort to broaden the faith's appeal beyond its traditional white, Southern base.
Land said he stands by his assertion that President Obama "poured gasoline on the racialist fires" when he addressed Martin's slaying and that Obama, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton have used the case "to try to gin up the black vote for an African American president who is in deep, deep, deep trouble for re-election."
Land, who is white, said he has no regrets about his remarks. He defended the idea that people are justified in seeing young black men as threatening: A black man is "statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man."
"Is it tragic that people react that way? Yes. Is it unfair? Yes? But it is understandable," he said.