Stand Your Ground Laws Increase Homicide Rates, Study Finds

Categories: Broward News
Arming America's moral protectors.
The great, well-oiled bullshit factory that is the National Rifle Association would have you believe the controversial Stand Your Ground laws have no drastic effect on a state's homicide rate. Because really, why would loosening the restrictions on violent engagement do a thing like that, right? Right? Hello?

In concept, the law gives licensed gun holders the option to stand tough in a violent situation outside the home, whereas the old code required would-be self-righteous triggermen to retreat. But since the world's most powerful gun advocacy group began ghostwriting the laws for willing state legislatures -- starting with Florida in 2005 -- the legislation's effectiveness has been a tough call -- effectiveness here being how many dead black kids in hoodies we can keep off the street, supposedly.

But a Texas A&M study has kicked a serious hole into the side of the pro-Stand Your Ground stance.

According to the study's number-crunching, states that have implemented Stand Your Ground subsequently field an increase of 7 to 9 percent in the homicide column.

"We find that there are 500 to 700 more homicides per year across the 23 states as a result of the laws," the study's author, Texas A&M economist Mark Hoekstra, tells NPR.

He adds: "It could be that these are self-defense killings... On the other hand, the increase could be driven by an escalation of violence by criminals. Or it could be an escalation of violence in otherwise nonviolent situations."

By shuffling through how police classify shootings, Hoekstra determined there hasn't been an increase in justified shootings, nor in armed criminals. That means the jump may be due to the general escalation of violence, or where "there would have been a fistfight... now, because of Stand Your Ground laws, it's possible that those escalate into something much more violent and lethal."

On the other side of the issue, the NRA is disputing the findings. But the results give off a pretty strong smell of common sense. If you widen the standards for when violent confrontation is acceptable, both good and bad guys are going to be walking with a slight edge in their step. Arming one side -- even in the name of moral righteousness -- is never going to end up a one-sided equation.

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By the way, stand-your-ground laws do NOT in any way "widen the standards for when violent confrontation is acceptable". That is a ridiculous mischaracterization of the law which implies that a violent attack is somehow the fault of the victim, because she chooses to fight back rather than letting herself be chased down. The violent attack would occur anyway, and still be illegal. All the law does is give the victim the right to be the one to choose whether the best option for her own survival is to run or to fight back when forced into a violent confrontation, rather than placing a preconceived legal requirement on her to try to run even if that is the more dangerous option.

Also, except for Florida, every state in this study has ALWAYS been a stand-your-ground state, as has every state in the US with only a couple of exceptions. These other states have always had that as their standard for self-defense, but felt the need to formalize it through legislation because of an increase in prosecutors and judges trying to violate the states' standards. So their passage of these laws didn't change what has always been the right of victims in their state to stand their ground in public, and cannot therefore be the cause of any such increase in homicides. 

Stand-your-ground has, in fact, been the legal standard throughout almost the entire US since the start of the country, and has been consistently upheld in several US Supreme Court cases, with decisions going back over 150 years. Florida was one of fewer than 5 exceptions to this, not because of any legislation, but because a Florida court ruled that one had a duty to retreat, even though that has never been a legal standard almost anywhere. The legal standard in the vast majority of the US has always been that only the victim is qualified in the particular circumstances of the attack on her to decide which option is the best one for her own safety, and that courts and legislatures should not be sitting in the comfort of courthouses and offices making those decisions for them. As Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote in one of the key SCOTUS decisions upholding Stand-your-ground as the national standard, “Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the face of an upturned knife.”


Wow, 7 whole percentage points. What a huge change. And, of course, you fail to mention that "homicide" is not equivalent to "murder". Homicide is a legal category of manner of death, and simply means that death was caused by another person,other than accidentally. What it does NOT mean is that the death was criminal or unjustified (hence the term 'justifiable homicide'). Even when the police kill someone, or someone is executed for a capital offense, the legal manner of death is listed as homicide. So without a breakdown of what particular types of homicide increased and decreased, we don't necessarily know what this report means at all.

Since virtually every single state has experienced a measurable and steady decrease in all illegal forms of homicide over the past 20 years, it's quite clear that the increase MUST be due to an increase in some form of justifiable homicide, unless, of course, the FBI is lying about national crime statistics. The argument that situations are just getting more lethal is illogical, since any such killing would be either justified or a crime, meaning that one or both categories would also have to increase. A killing is either legal or illegal - there is no other category. And since we know from national crime statistics that illegal killings have actually decreased all across the country, then any increase must be due to justified killings, where the victim of a violent attack legally defended his or her own life.

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