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Will Trayvon Martin's killer George Zimmerman get his gun back after acquittal? 'He needs it more now,' says lawyer

Neighbourhood watch volunteer expected to remain in hiding while potentially facing civil charges

The man acquitted of murdering unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin will have his gun returned to him and is expected to carry it, say his lawyers.

Volunteer neighbourhood watch member George Zimmerman, 29, was described as having gone through "the worst time" of his life, and his defence attorney Don West told ABC News: "I don't know how he could not carry a gun at this point since he has been lawfully allowed to carry one."

The result of the trial over the 17-year-old's death has sparked angry protests across the US, with thousands of demonstrators bringing Times Square in New York to a standstill on Sunday night chanting: "Justice for Trayvon Martin!"

And speaking about the public displays of outrage, another member of Mr Zimmerman's defence team Mark O'Mara said: "He's been scared for the last 16 months, and with anger like this I think he has reason to be worried."

Jurors were told that Mr Zimmerman was allowed to use deadly force when he used his Kel Tec pistol to shoot the unarmed 17-year-old, not only if he actually faced death or bodily harm, but also if he just thought he did.

When asked by an ABC reporter in a separate interview: "Does he get that gun back?", Mr O'Mara said "Yes, he does." He said he has "even more reason now" to carry one than he did before the fatal shooting.

And the acquitted man's brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr., told CNN: "He's going to be looking over his shoulder the rest of his life."

Mr Zimmerman may still face court action, as Mr Martin's family consider a civil case against him and the Justice Department issued a statement saying it is looking into the possibility of filing criminal civil rights charges.

The NAACP issued an online petition asking for the Department to act to "address the travesties of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin", and it has been signed by nearly 250,000 people.

It is thought that Mr Zimmerman is unlikely to ever return to Florida, and he has been in hiding outside the state since he was released on bail in June 2012.

Friends told Reuters he is nonetheless still considering pursuing a career as a criminal lawyer, and that he "sees it as a potential path forward to help other people like himself" who have been prosecuted "inappropriately".

Meanwhile President Barack Obama called for calm following Sunday night's demonstrations against the acquittal, which took place across the country and saw police using rubber bullets to disperse angry protestors in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

He said: "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."

Civil rights leaders have asked for anyone expressing their anger to do so peacefully, and most have complied. The Reverend Jesse Jackson said the legal system had "failed justice", but added that violence is not the answer.

And at London's Wireless festival last night closing act Jay-Z thanked the crowds and added: "Rest in peace, Trayvon Martin." Also performing - in their first show for 20 years - were hip-hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest, who issued their own call for peace.

"I don't want to be a downer but yesterday in America, we saw a miscarriage of justice," said band member Q-Tip. "It's not the first time this has happened. Pray for us... we need help."