Obama: 'Honor' Trayvon Martin by preventing future tragedies

Olivier Knox
President Barack Obama answers a reporter's question about the death of Trayvon Martin, Friday, March 23, 2012, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/ Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Saying "we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken," President Barack Obama on Sunday urged Americans to stay calm in the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case and "honor" the slain teen's memory by preventing similar tragedies in the future.

"I know this case has elicited strong passions.  And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher.  But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken," Obama said in a written statement released by the White House.

[RELATED: Jury finds George Zimmerman not guilty]

"I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son," the president said, calling Martin's death "a tragedy."

"We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. 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," Obama said. "We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this.  As citizens, that’s a job for all of us.  That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin."

[RELATED: DOJ urged to press civil rights charges]

The statement shed little light on whether the Justice Department will press federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. But the department released a statement shortly after the president's comments saying that it was actively weighing whether to do so.

"Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the Department's policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial," the Justice Department said.

In March 2012, the president had famously urged Americans to come together and do some "soul searching" about Martin's slaying and underlined that "if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."