Michael Bloomberg launches nationwide campaign on gun reform and says 'shoot first' laws have harmed public safety
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has accused the National Rifle Association of promoting a gun culture at the expense of public safety by backing the so-called "stand-your-ground" laws at the heart of the Trayvon Martin case.
Launching a nationwide campaign along with several African American organisations against the controversial self-defence statutes, Bloomberg argued the laws, which exist in 25 states, promote vigilantism. The NRA, by backing the measures, had helped make the country less safe, he said.
"You just cannot have a civilised society where everybody can have a gun and make their own decisions as to whether someone is threatening or not," Bloomberg said. "This has nothing to do with gun owners' rights, nothing to do with the second amendment. Plain and simple, this is just trying to give people a licence to murder."
Stand-your-ground laws have significantly loosened the standards surrounding the use of deadly force. The laws permit individuals to choose to fight back against an aggressor rather than relying on an expectation that they would first attempt to flee.
Critics argue the legislation makes it possible for individuals to get away with murder by simply claiming they feared for their lives. The Guardian has found that a rise in civilian justifiable homicides across the US are closely linked to states with both weak gun controls and stand-your-ground laws.
Stand-your-ground laws have been invoked in defence of George Zimmerman, the self-appointed neighbourhood watch captain who killed Trayvon Martin in February.
Bloomberg noted that "just weeks" after Martin's killing, "United States senators introduced NRA-backed legislation that would require all states to honour any permit to carry a concealed weapon issued by any other state."
"In fact, Florida authorities have still not, as far as I know, revoked George Zimmerman's concealed carry permit. So if Congress passed the legislation today, he could legally carry a gun in New York City," he added.
Bloomberg is working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Action Network, Color of Change and Vote Vets in pushing the new campaign.
In a statement released by the mayor's office, the laws are referred to as "shoot first" rather than stand your ground. The new campaign is entitled, "Second Chance on Shoot First".
In the statement, Bloomberg said: "It's now clear: the NRA's 'shoot first' laws that have passed in 25 states have undermined the integrity of the justice system, and done serious harm to public safety."
"They have sown confusion in police departments about when to make arrests, made it more difficult for prosecutors to bring charges in cases of deadly violence and, most importantly, they have been responsible for a major increase in so-called 'justifiable homicides.' These laws have not made our country safer; they have made us less safe and it's why we're launching a nationwide campaign to reform or repeal shoot first laws."
Bloomberg added: "The NRA's leaders weren't interested in public safety. They were interested in promoting a culture where people take the law into their own hands with a gun and face no consequences for it."
The unveiling of the campaign comes less than one week after four New York police officers were shot in a Brooklyn gunfight. The latest shooting brings the total number of NYPD officers shot in the last four months to eight.
"I'm tired of going to funerals. Police officers' lives are today a lot less safe than they used to be. Your lives and the lives of your children are a lot less safe than they used to be. At some point here we have to stand up as a civilized society and say we're not going to take this anymore," Bloomberg said.
[Image via David Shankbone]