Here's Proof That 'Stand Your Ground' Laws Do More Harm Than Good

Trayvon Martin

Photo: Martin’s family.

The case of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old unarmed teen allegedly gunned down by a neighbourhood watchman, prompted intense criticism of “stand your ground” laws that justify use of a deadly weapon.These laws increase manslaughter and murder and don’t deter violent crimes, according to a recent study by Cheng Cheng and Mark Hoekstra at Texas A&M University. They also might escalate violence in otherwise non-lethal situations, such as Martin’s case.

According to the study:

 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 per cent. This could represent either increased use of lethal force in self-defence situations, or the escalation of violence in otherwise non-lethal situations. Regardless, the results indicate that a primary consequence of strengthening self-defence law is increased homicide.

Florida, Martin’s home state, was the first to adopt such a law in 2005. Since then, 20 other states have followed.

The uproar over Martin’s case led the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights to say they’d review the laws.

Here’s a graph showing homicide rates among states that had “stand your ground” laws and those who didn’t. The blue line represents states that have “stand your ground laws.”


Photo: NBER

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