WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and civil rights groups launched a campaign on Wednesday to roll back “stand your ground” laws critics say led to the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
The Second Chance on Shoot First campaign aims to reform or repeal laws on the use of deadly force in 25 states that Bloomberg called “a license to murder.”
The laws “justify civilian gunplay and invite vigilante justice and retribution with disastrous results,” Bloomberg told a news conference.
Others in the “Second Chance” effort include the National Urban League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Action Network and the online group ColorOfChange.org.
“Stand your ground” laws allow people to use deadly force when they believe they are in danger of getting killed or suffering great bodily harm.
Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, was shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman on February 26 in Sanford, Florida. Police declined to press charges against him, citing the law.
A Florida prosecutor was expected to announce a criminal charge against Zimmerman later on Wednesday.
Bloomberg blamed the passage of the “stand your ground” laws on the National Rifle Association and said they had contributed to an upturn in justifiable homicides.
The Second Chance campaign would be a grass-roots effort to roll back the laws or keep them from being passed, he said.
Florida state Senator Chris Smith told reporters lawmakers in his state were looking at reforming the law by removing “vigilante aspects” rather than outright repeal.
Reporting By Ian Simpson; editing by Mohammad Zargham