Feb 21, 2022 - Politics & Policy

"Stand your ground" laws linked to jump in U.S. firearm homicides

Photo of guns laid out in four rows on a blue tablecloth
Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The enactment of "stand your ground" laws was associated with an "abrupt and sustained" national increase in firearm homicide rates in America, according to a new study published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Network Open.

Why it matters: "Stand your ground" laws, which allow for the use of deadly force in self-defense with no obligation to retreat, have come under fire in recent years after high-profile deaths like Trayvon Martin's. Critics say the laws enable unnecessary violence, while proponents claim they offer self-protection.

Details: The study, which assessed "stand your ground" laws enacted in 41 states between 2000 and 2016, found they were associated with an 8% to 11% increase in monthly firearm homicide rates, or an additional 58 to 72 homicides each month.

  • That monthly increase alone is greater than total rates of homicides in most Northern and Western European countries, the study said.
  • State-level rises in homicide and firearm homicide rates topped 10% for several Southern states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana.

What they're saying: "[N]o states had significant reductions in violent deaths, as advocates often argue when justifying these laws," researchers wrote.

  • "The accumulation of evidence established in this and other studies point to harmful outcomes associated with SYG laws. Despite this, SYG laws have now been enacted in most states, and the uptake of new SYG bills continues to be popular, unnecessarily risking lives."
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