Study: ‘Stand your ground’ leads to more homicides

NPR reports researchers who have studied the impact of “stand your ground” laws have determined states with “stand your ground” laws have a higher homicide rate than states without the laws.

Texas A&M University economist Mark Hoekstra’s study of crime data from 2000-2010 found that homicides went up by 7% to 9% in states that enacted “stand your ground” legislation relative to those that did not. Hoekstra found no evidence that the laws reduced crime by creating a deterrence for criminals.

To explain the increase in the homicide rate, Hoekstra did not find a corresponding rise in self-defense killings nor an increase in criminals using lethal force. Hoekstra concluded “stand your ground” laws lead to an escalation of violence in otherwise nonviolent situations.

[B]ased on the available data, it appears that crafters of these laws sought to give good guys more latitude to defend themselves against bad guys. But what Hoekstra’s data suggest is that in real-life conflicts, both sides think of the other guy as the bad guy. Both believe the law gives them the right to shoot.

Stanford law professor John Donohue, who has been studying crime and violence for more than two decades, agrees. He says “stand your ground” has become a legal refuge for defendants:

"I’ve been hearing from defense lawyers around the country that if they happen to have a criminal defendant in a stand your ground jurisdiction, pretty much no matter what happens, you can say, ‘Well, I shot the guy, but I felt threatened and had a reasonable basis for fearing injury to myself,’ " he said.