WASHINGTON, DC — Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NAACP leaders spoke out Wednesday against controversial "stand your ground" laws, which have come under fire in the wake of the shooting death of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
The officials announced a campaign to reform or repeal the so-called "shoot first" laws, which allow people to use deadly force in self-defense even if they are in a public space and have an opportunity to escape.
"The laws are not the kind of laws that a civilized society should have," Bloomberg said at the Washington, D.C., press conference, joined by the NAACP, National Urban League and others. "This is just giving people a license to murder."
As the officials unveiled the "Second Chance on Shoot First" campaign Wednesday afternoon, Florida officials were separately set to announce that neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman will be charged in Martin's death, according to reports.
Martin, 17, had just picked up a bag of Skittles at a convenience store in Sanford, Fla., and was walking home when Zimmerman shot him during a confrontation Feb. 26.
Zimmerman claimed the hoodie-clad teen was threatening him and because of the state's "stand your ground" law, Zimmerman was not initially charged, sparking protests across the country.
But on Wednesday, Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey was set to announce the first charges against Zimmerman in the case, according to reports. The specific charges were not immediately known.
The mayor's Second Chance on Shoot First campaign aims to substantially alter the "stand your ground" laws in the 25 states where they are in effect so that they cannot be used in vigilante, domestic violence or drug cases, officials said.
Bloomberg also slammed the National Rifle Association for lobbying for and helping to draft the "shoot first" laws, which he said make the country less safe.
"No civilized society that I know of outside of America has laws that permit anyone to just decide somebody shouldn't be alive, pull out a gun, shoot them and get away with it," Bloomberg said.
States where "stand your ground" laws were passed saw major increases in the number of justifiable homicides, including a 200 percent spike in Florida, the campaign said.
The Second Chance on Shoot First campaign includes an online petition and a space for state legislators to voice their views.