Posted by Harriet Rowan on July 10, 2012

Two recent studies have found that so-called "Stand Your Ground" laws lead to more deaths. These findings contradict some claims made by right-wing politicians that have pushed these bills into law, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the National Rifle Association (NRA). These laws have come under increased scrutiny since Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law was initially cited to protect Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a private non-profit and the largest economics research organization in the United States, recently released a working paper that examines the claims of those who say "Stand Your Ground" laws make our streets safer, and concludes that states that pass Stand Your Ground laws see a combined increase of between 4 and 8 additional deaths each month. Researchers from Texas A&M University also released a study last month finding states that passed the laws saw an increase in homicides between 7 and 9 percent annually, which amounts to between 500 and 700 homicides cumulatively, with no drop in violent crime rates.

As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, Florida passed a "Stand Your Ground" law in 2005 at the behest of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its lobbyist Marion Hammer. Hammer promptly brought the law to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where it was adopted unanimously as a "model" bill. ALEC and the NRA then helped promote its passage in statehouses around the country.

The laws alter the common law "Castle Doctrine" that for decades has recognized a right of self-defense in one's home. The ALEC/NRA model bill changes state law from recognizing a right to assert self-defense in front of a jury, to one that grants legal immunity in criminal or civil cases for people who claim they believed the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent death or grave harm to themselves or others. The laws make it harder to prosecute killings and make it more difficult for a victim's family to pursue a civil case.

Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), an ALEC member and a sponsor of the 2005 "Stand Your Ground" bill, said in an interview shortly after the passage of the law that by passing the law, "I hope to minimize the number of victims, that's what I'm after." Earlier this year, speaking on the Lehrer News Hour, Rep. Baxley claimed that the law has "saved thousands of people's lives."

The facts suggest otherwise.

"Stand Your Ground" Laws Equal More Deaths

Chandler B. McClellan and Erdal Tekin, the authors of the NBER working paper, found that the law's provision that extends the doctrine "to any place a person has a legal right to be ... causes the increase in homicides." They looked at the 18 states that closely followed the ALEC/NRA "model" bill and extended immunity to people who use force anywhere they have a "right to be," and compared them to states that passed versions of the law without such provisions.

McClellan and Tekin claim their analysis ruled out other explanations for their findings, such as national homicide rates. "Trends in homicide rates are fairly similar across states that passed SYG laws and those that did not prior to passage of these laws," they wrote.

In the wake of Trayvon Martin's killing, issues of race surrounded the controversial "Stand Your Ground" laws (Martin was African-American and his killer George Zimmerman is a white Hispanic). However, McClellan and Tekin found that Stand Your Ground laws primarily result in an increase in firearm-related deaths among whites, particularly white males. "We find no evidence these laws cause an increase in homicides among blacks," the authors wrote.

Another Study Finds Similar Increase in Homicide and No Drop in Other Crimes

Researchers Cheng Cheng and Mark Hoekstra of Texas A&M's Department of Economics conducted a similar analysis, and considered whether the laws reduce annual homicides and crime rates based on FBI Uniform Crime Reports (McClellan and Tekin used monthly data from the U.S. Vital Statistics).

Cheng and Hoekstra stated: "We find the [Stand Your Ground] laws increase murder and manslaughter by a statistically significant 7 to 9 percent, which translates into an additional 500 to 700 homicides per year nationally across the states that adopted [the laws]." Additionally, the authors said they found "no evidence of deterrence effects on burglary, robbery, or aggravated assault."

The laws "do not appear to offer any hidden spillover benefit to society at large," the report says.

Florida has created a special commission to review the state's Stand Your Ground law, but according to statements made by politicians defending the law so far, it appears that the NRA's rhetoric about the law continues to be deployed without regard to the empirical evidence about the actual effects of the laws. Not surprisingly, Florida's commission is stacked with ALEC members.

Comments

Show me your stats. How many were criminals vs those with carry permits? How many of these were from a situation where the person had no choice? Anyone can state stats and statistics. Publish those stats and then we all can see what is what.

Look up the stats yourself if you don't believe it. Find the states that have passed these idiotic laws & check their murder & violent crime rates before & after the law. In my state shortly after a similar law was passed a boy was murdered because after a man called police to report an underage drinking party next door, one boy ran to his house & crawled up under his porch (outside the house) to hide from the cops. The man killed the boy & no charges were filed. What the F88K has happened to being a normal teenager & not getting murdered for it?Trayvon Martin was unarmed & 17 yrs old. He confronted a wannabe cop who was stalking him on a dark street, just as I would have done, to find out why he was being stalked. Zimmerman was an idiot but he was armed so he ignored what police told him & continued following Martin. He should have had his ass kicked & Trayvon was in the right for knocking him on his ass. Now if YOU cause a confrontation & get knocked on your ass you can simply murder the person who beats you up. This is not how a civilized society acts & this is not the wild wild west. If you aren't man enough to fight after you start a fight, don't stalk people, don't let a handgun give you false manhood & bravery. You're a man or your NOT & the gun doesn't change you from pussy to man, it changes you from man to murderer. We have always had laws that allow you to shoot someone who breaks into your home or self-defense laws to save your life. Now carrying a gun into the street has added a whole new dimension & there are far too many unstable people who have no business being granted the right to kill outside of their home & like Zimmerman they go out & look for trouble, start the trouble, then commit murder. Keep your guns in the home or in the woods, you're not John Wayne & this isn't the old west anymore.

The point regarding statistical evidence is valid. Interpretation can always distort data, not to mention the motives of the police in under and over reporting.
With respect to the Trayvon Martin incident, Zimmerman has not gotten away with anything.
When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns. Do you think Chicago is safer because of it's restrictive firearms laws?

I am unaware of anyone wanting to outlaw guns so why do you say this? For hyperbole effect? Do you imagine you win points of some kind, advance some kind of argument by engaging in nonsense talk? Guns don't kill people, magic fairies do.

They did. Did you not see the link to get the paper? Or are you just making noise?

The stand your ground laws are supposed to demonstrate a give and take. There are more homicides possibly caused by this, but at the same time what impact does this have on overall crime and overall security of a state? We take necessary precautions like getting good locks, bolting our windows, and getting a big dog - but sometimes that's not enough.

I think the most probable argument against this stance is that we shouldn't sacrifice human life no matter what - but then what about the wars we're waging in other countries? The victims of stand your ground laws are terrorists in our own country and we're interacting with them in the same fashion that we are with 'terrorists' in other countries. The security issues raised should definitely be weighed against the pros.

Bill Moyers presents "United States of ALEC," a report on the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of -- ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.