Study: Stand Your Ground Laws Increase Homicides

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In April, we highlighted and explained Texas' own Stand Your Ground Law. Now, Texas A&M University's economics department has come out with a study that shows that Stand Your Ground Laws not only don't deter crime, they actually can increase homicides.

The story about Stand Your Ground laws continues.  Florida's Stand Your Ground law is widely blamed for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin earlier this year.  Stand Your Ground laws allow people to use lethal force in self-defense in a variety of contexts that are more expansive than those traditionally found in English and American common law.  In short, instead of allowing a person to use deadly force only in their own homes, Stand Your Ground Laws allow a person to use deadly force to defend themselves in a host of other situations in a variety of other places (e.g.: business, vehicle, place of employment, and other locales made appropriate entirely upon ad hoc context).

Proponents of Stand Your Ground Laws claim that such laws make aspiring criminals think twice before committing violence.  They tout the deterrent effect.  As further support, they cite the protection of blameless victims.  They argue, essentially, that the laws save lives, and that even where lives are not saved, the lives lost are the lives with lesser societal value.

Without addressing that last contention, a new study seriously undermines the first contention, that those laws save lives.  The new study, from the Department of Economics at Texas A&M, comes to a devastating conclusion in its first page:

“We find no evidence of deterrence; burglary, robbery, and aggravated assault are unaffected by the laws. On the other hand, we find that murder and non-negligent manslaughter are increased by 7 to 9 percent.  This could represent either increased use of lethal force in self-defense situations, or the escalation of violence in otherwise non-lethal situations.  Regardless, the results indicate that a primary consequence of strengthening self-defense law is increased homicide.”

Reacting to the study, Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), said the following:

“Contrary to the expectations of many lawmakers, the report by Texas A&M University shows that our 'Stand Your Ground' law is ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. I do not think Texans want their lawmakers in Austin to produce legislation that does not deter felonies and only results in more needless loss of life. It should be startling even to those who originally supported the law they cause an increase in the amount of murder and non-negligent manslaughter by 7 to 9 percent, which 'translates into an additional 500 to 700 homicides per year nationally' across the states that have adopted these laws.

Much like Governor Scott in Florida in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, it is obvious that we here in Texas need to revisit our own flawed legislation. We can and should have an intelligent set of laws on the books that allows Texans to defend themselves and their property without putting the rest of us at risk by giving armed and untrained citizens the license to shoot first and ask questions later. We need laws that reduce crime and loss of life; this study proves that 'Stand Your Ground' laws do just the opposite.”

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