“Stand your ground” laws may have led to hundreds more homicides every year in the U.S., says a study that could increase criticisms that they encourage unnecessary violence, reports the Washington Post. Increasingly common, stand-your-ground laws remove the duty to retreat from an attacker before responding with potentially deadly force. They became a flash point in disputes over gun violence, self-defense and racial profiling, particularly after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager, in Florida a decade ago. Stand-your-ground laws are associated with an 11 percent increase in monthly firearm homicide rates, with especially striking jumps in Southern states that embraced stand-your-ground early on. That amounts to 700 additional homicides each year, say findings published Monday in the medical journal JAMA Network Open.
Justifications for stand-your-ground often “center around these laws actually having some protective effect on public safety and deterring violence,” said study co-author David Humphreys of the University of Oxford. "There doesn’t seem to be any evidence to show that and ... we only seem to see the opposite effect.” The research echoes other studies that found spikes in firearm homicides after the laws were passed — especially in Florida, which started a wave of stand-your-ground legislation in 2005. The largest jumps in homicides and firearm homicides — as high as 33.5 percent — occurred in southern states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Missouri. In contrast, stand-your-ground laws were not associated with significant changes in Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia. Some advocates have promoted stand-your-ground as a way to reduce violence, by ensuring that victims can retaliate against an assailant. Researchers note that no states saw drops in homicide after passing the laws.