Stand Your Ground Laws May Fuel Crime

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on June 13, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Stand Your Ground laws are often touted as a crime deterrent but is that really the case? Since Trayvon Martin's death in April these laws have come under scrutiny for effectiveness and safety risks.

Now investigators are looking more closely at the effect of these laws on a community.

Florida's Governor Rick Scott announced that its Stand Your Ground law, which sparked this national debate, will be investigated by a newly created state task force. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has also announced its own nationwide investigation.

Initial results are in and it doesn't look good for stand your ground supporters.

There was an increase in justifiable homicides in the five years after many states implemented Stand Your Ground laws (compared to the five years prior), according to a new Texas A&M University study. The study analyzed state crime data from 2000-2009 and found a significant increase in justifiable homicides after 2005, the year many states implemented stand your ground statutes. 

Justifiable homicide post-2005 increased while overall homicide rates remained relatively stable, The Wall Street Journal reported.  

Interestingly, homicide crimes are twice as likely to be deemed justifiable in states with stand your ground laws, according to a separate study conducted by John Roman at the Urban Institute.

Several members of Florida's new task force have already said that while they continue to support the law, it may need some tweaking. Differences in how it's used against black and white defendants may make the law unconstitutional and may also violate individual state constitutions, many of which prohibit racial discrimination.

Supporters still insist that these laws protect individuals from violence but evidence is mounting that stand your ground may encourage violence rather than deter it. An in depth look at stand your ground by the Tampa Bay Times showed that the law is often invoked in cases where self-defense does not clearly require deadly force.

At this point, investigators are simply questioning the efficacy of stand your ground but that may change if more results support the already published reports.

Florida's task force is holding its first open meeting today, June 12, and the public response to that will likely set the tone for future investigations.

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