In the 23 states that enacted "stand your ground" laws since 2005, homicide rates have increased between 7 and 9 percent, amounting to between 500 and 700 more deaths per year, according to a recently released Texas A&M study.
The laws expand the legal justification for the use of lethal force in self-defense and are a hotly contested issue, particularly after last February's fatal shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida, a stand-your-ground state.
According to advocates for the laws, the measures are intended to deter violent crime by supporting individuals who take an active role in defending themselves and others from the violent actions of criminals.
However, the Texas A&M study, released last month and only now being covered by the media, concludes that the "results indicate the laws do not deter burglary, robbery, or aggravated assault. In contrast, they lead to a statistically significant 8 percent net increase in the number of reported murders and non-negligent manslaughters."
"These laws lower the cost of using lethal force," Mark Hoekstra, one of the economists behind the study, told National Public Radio. "Our study finds that, as a result, you get more of it."
Despite the findings, Hoekstra refused to describe the law as a failure.
"It could be that these are self-defense killings," he said. "On the other hand, the increase could be driven by an escalation of violence by criminals. Or it could be an escalation of violence in otherwise nonviolent situations."
Hoekstra, however, could not find an increase in justifiable homicides among police records in stand-your-ground states, which would have been the case if there were more reported self-defense killings. Hoekstra was also unable to find an increase in cases where criminals were armed, thereby requiring victims to defend and protect themselves with a gun.
Consequently, Hoekstra concluded that the increase in homicides in stand-your-ground states likely stems from an escalation in confrontations where "perhaps [in cases where] there would have been a fistfight ... now, because of stand your ground laws, it's possible that those escalate into something much more violent and lethal."
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