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Trayvon Martin shooting: a turning point in gun rights debate?

For years, gun laws had grown less restrictive. But some gun rights advocacy has been curtailed after the Trayvon Martin shooting, which has provided ammunition for gun control groups.

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Demonstrators march past alfresco diners as they take part in a rally in support of slain teenager Trayvon Martin in New York April 10.

Keith Bedford/Reuters/File

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Will Americans leery of a decade of gun rights expansions stand their ground over the Trayvon Martin case?

The Feb. 26 shooting of the unarmed teenager in Sanford, Fla., by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, and the initial police decision not to charge Mr. Zimmerman, sparked a national debate about race and violence in American society.

But so far, Trayvon’s death is having the biggest impact on the national gun policy debate.

The shooting, some say, may have set a potential high-water mark for gun rights after a decade of legislative expansion, which included measures like concealed carry and no-duty-to-retreat in public laws, and the landmark Florida “Stand Your Ground” law that’s been cited in the Trayvon Martin case.

A national conservative group that helped author the Florida law has even curtailed its gun rights advocacy, citing pressure from corporations.

“At some point, the progressives have got to stand their ground against the NRA,” says Philip Cook, a sociologist who studies gun policy and crime at Duke University, in Durham, N.C. “I think otherwise the NRA will continue to push for a broader interpretation of their understanding of what the Second Amendment right is, to the point where everybody pretty much can carry a gun, concealed or openly, all the time in any circumstance, and do with it what they want.”

Evidence suggests that this could be such a moment.

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