By Henry Pierson Curtis, Orlando Sentinel –
ORLANDO, Fla. — In a session called “Protecting the Right to Protect,” George Zimmerman’s lawyer will speak this weekend at a convention of gun-rights activists.
Mark O’Mara will address the crowd about his client’s use of deadly force and the international attention that followed the Feb. 26 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
The three-day Gun Rights Policy Conference is to include more than 70 panelists and speakers on topics ranging from “The Most Dangerous Election of Our Lifetime” to stand-your-ground laws across the U.S. and “Growing the Gun-Owner Base in the Popular Culture War.”
Other topics of wide interest include a discussion on moves to limit states’ “stand your ground” laws —which supporters say gave Zimmerman the right to shoot Martin when, he said, he felt threatened by the teenager. No date has been set for Zimmerman’s trial on a charge of second-degree murder.
O’Mara did not respond to a request for comment on his talk.
The convention begins Friday evening and runs through Sunday at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport and is open to the public. It is sponsored by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and the Second Amendment Foundation.
President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are believed by many gun owners to be opposed to gun ownership. Obama’s 2008 election set off widespread gun sales and ammunition hoarding by gun owners who feared stricter national regulation — which did not follow.
Florida is receptive ground for the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
Floridians hold more permits to carry concealed weapons than the residents of any other state. The most recent data show that as of August, Florida had 971,263 concealed-weapon-permit holders.
The millionth concealed-weapon permit is expected “by the end of the calendar year or shortly after the new year begins,” said Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture’s Division of Licensing.
Requests for permits surged after Obama’s election. At first considered a one-time peak, constant demand prompted the state Division of Licensing to hire more employees, officials there said. Requests from January through June this year averaged 49,000 a month — the highest since Florida loosened its concealed-weapon restrictions in 1987.
“That peak has been pretty sustained for the last four years,” Ivey said. “We’re issuing 10,000 to 15,000 a month. …There’s definitely not a waning interest.”