Study finds Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ law associated with increased homicide rates

Study finds Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ law associated with increased homicide rates

The number of homicides in Florida has increased “significantly” since the passing of the so-called Stand Your Ground law [statute], according to a report from the Journal of the American Medical Association [journal website] released Monday. In the report [text], researchers found that implementation of the law, officially known to as Florida Statute 776.013, is associated with a 24.4 percent rise in homicides and a 31.6 percent rise in firearm-related homicides. The data for the report, obtained from the Center for Disease Control [database], spanned from 1999, six years before the law went into effect, to 2014. The objective of the study, according to researchers, was “to estimate the impact of Florida’s stand your ground law,” and not to influence policy. The study does note, however, that the “duty to retreat” from perceived threats, which Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” effectively eliminated, dates back to colonial America. After Florida passed the law in 2005, 22 others states have implemented similar “castle laws,” which have given rise to considerable debate about the potential for increased violence.

This is the latest, and to date one of the most thorough, investigations into “stand your ground” laws. In June 2012 Florida created a commission to review such self-defense laws [JURIST report]. Twenty-three states in the US have enacted a variation of the stand your ground law. The law does not require someone who reasonably believes themselves to be threatened or in immediate danger to retreat but rather allows the use of deadly force. The law has been criticized for its vagueness and potential for bias-based use against minorities. For example, Rev. Markel Hutchins, a civil rights activist, filed suit [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia [official website] challenging the state’s “No Duty to Retreat” law [text, PDF] because it is too vague and can lead to misuse of killing minority members. Hutchins also declared that his challenge derived from the recent killing of Martin. Georgia enacted its “No Duty to Retreat” law in 2006 while Florida enacted [JURIST reports] its “stand your ground” law in 2005.