In the wake of the Trayvon Martin case, “stand your ground” laws have come under harsh scrutiny, laying the ground for politicians and civil rights leaders across the country to change or eliminate such laws.

Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the National Urban League and the NAACP for a major initiative.

“stand your ground” is defined as using force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat without an obligation to retreat first. In some cases, a person may use deadly force in public areas without a duty to retreat.

By now, the nation is aware of the shooting death of 17-year-old Martin at the hands of neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. During their scuffle in February, Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in the chest after he confronted him.

Martin did not have a weapon and Zimmerman was set free, claiming self-defense. After an intense investigation, Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He is awaiting arraignment.

While “stand your ground” laws vary from state to state, close to 30 states have one in some form. In Florida, “stand your ground” justifies using force, except deadly force, against another when the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against imminent use of unlawful force. That is, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have to retreat if they believe their life is in danger.

Last week at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Bloomberg, along with members of the NAACP and the National Urban League, announced the “Second Chance on Shoot First” campaign. The campaign is intended to prevent shooting deaths similar to Martin’s by reforming “shoot first” laws.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has been the target of blame lately in connection with Martin’s death, as the organization promotes such acts as Zimmerman displayed. The NRA began pushing “stand your ground” laws in 2005.

“In reality, the NRA’s leaders weren’t interested in public safety,” Bloomberg said. “They were interested in promoting a culture where people take the law into their own hands and face no consequences for it. Let’s call that by its real name: vigilantism.”

Bloomberg added that since “stand your ground” was introduced, states that have such laws have seen an increase in justifiable homicides. Such homicides averaged 12 percent in Florida before “stand your ground.” Now they stand at 36 percent. In Georgia, an average of seven justifiable homicides per year occurred before “stand your ground.” Now there are 14.

“I can just tell you that in New York, we would never allow such an individual to carry a gun, and neither would many other states. And yet–just weeks after the incident–United States senators introduced NRA-backed legislation that would require all states to honor any permit to carry a concealed weapon issued by any other state. That means individuals in a state with low standards–or no standards–would be able to carry guns anywhere they wanted to, no matter what laws a state might adopt,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg was accompanied by Florida State Sen. Chris Smith, who said “stand your ground” has done more harm than good in Florida by allowing criminals to run free.

“While it may have begun with all the best intentions, Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ [law] has evolved into a ‘get out of jail free’ card for those the law was never intended to protect,” Smith said.