Gun deaths rose 11% as a result of ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws, study finds
So-called “hold your ground” laws are associated with hundreds of additional homicides each year in the United States, research led by public health experts, who say these laws “should be reconsidered to prevent unnecessary violent deaths”.
Published Monday in JAMA Network Open, a peer-reviewed medical journal, the study compares homicide trends in about two dozen states that enacted on-the-ground (SYG) laws between 2000 and 2016. with models from 18 states that did not. have such laws during the study period.
The researchers found that the SYG laws were associated with a “gross and sustained” national increase of 8% to 11% in monthly firearm homicide rates, causing 58 to 72 additional deaths per month. “This monthly increase alone exceeds total homicide rates in most northern and western European countries today,” the authors wrote.
The enactment of the SYG laws contributed to a particularly steep increase in firearm homicide rates in many Southern states that quickly adopted the laws, with increases ranging from 16.2% to 33.5% in Alabama , Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Missouri.
However, SYG laws were not associated with significant changes in firearm homicide rates in Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia.
The researchers acknowledged that “SYG laws alone may not be sufficient to explain the increase in homicides.”
“Understanding the factors that shape these differential associations between states, such as regions endorsing the use of self-protective violence, existing gun laws, and the availability of firearms, is critical to understanding how and why legally extending the right to use lethal violence in public is associated with increased homicides in some states but not others,” they continued.
According to the study:
“Stand Your Ground” (SYG) laws, also known as shoot first statutes, override the common law principle of a “duty to retreat”, creating the ability for individuals to use deadly force in public self-defense as a first, rather than a last resort. Florida was the first state to enact an SYG law by statute in 2005, and then 23 states enacted SYG laws soon after, between 2006 and 2008.
Advocates say SYG laws improve public safety by deterring predatory crime through an increased threat of violent retaliation. Critics, on the other hand, argue that the laws are unnecessary and can threaten public safety by emboldening the use of deadly violence in public encounters where violence and injury could have been safely avoided. There are also concerns that the laws will exacerbate social inequalities in the face of violent crime, as implicit and explicit threat perception biases discriminate and cause disproportionate harm among minority groups, such as black people. Anecdotally, critics’ concerns have materialized in an increasing number of shootings of young black men (e.g., Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and Markeis McGlockton) where self-defense has been claimed. These high-profile incidents underscore the controversy surrounding the SYG laws and have served to galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement.
David Humphreys, associate professor at Oxford University and one of the paper’s authors, Recount the “Washington Post” that proponents of SYG laws argue that they have “some protective effect on public safety and deter violence.”
“There doesn’t seem to be any evidence to show that and, you know, we only seem to see the opposite effect,” he added.
The paper states that while “the enactment of SYG laws was not associated with a significant change in violent deaths in all states, there was no evidence that SYG laws were associated with a decrease in homicides or firearm homicides”.
“The accumulating evidence established in this study and others points to adverse outcomes associated with SYG laws,” the researchers noted. “Despite this, SYG laws have now been enacted in most states, and the passing of new SYG bills continues to be popular, needlessly risking lives.”
“Although adoption was initially concentrated in the South, by 2021, 30 states had enacted SYG laws, and that number continues to grow as a series of pending bills make their way through state legislatures. states,” the authors noted. “Fourteen states currently have SYG bills under consideration.”