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Obama urges calm in wake of Zimmerman verdict

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement from the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement from the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama called for calm Sunday after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, saying his death was a tragedy and that the country should seek ways to stem gun violence.

"We are a nation of laws and a jury has spoken," he said in a statement. "I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son."

The president said he was aware the Florida case has elicited strong feelings.

"And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher," the president said.

A jury of six women acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the February 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Martin. Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense while civil rights activists said the shooting was racially motivated.

Obama urged Americans work to broaden "the circle of understanding and compassion" in their communities and put some of the emotion the case has aroused into curtailing gun violence.

"We should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis," he said. "We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this."

"That's the way to honor Trayvon Martin," he added.

(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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