“Stand Your Ground” Self-defense Laws: Do they “stand up” to scientific analysis?

Many US states have amended self-defense laws to enhance legal immunities for individuals using deadly force in public. Despite concerns that “stand your ground” (SYG) laws might unnecessarily encourage the use of deadly force, their impact on violent deaths and how this varies across states and demographic groups remains unclear. This raises important questions:  Are “stand your ground” (SYG) laws associated with increases in violent deaths, and does this vary by state? Or are these laws just a means to satisfy politicians’ fanciful delusions, masquerading as “common sense”?

     In response, scientific methods were applied to a recent study: Forty-one states were analyzed, including 23 states that enacted SYG laws during the study period, compared with 18 states that did not have such laws, with 248 358 homicides (43.7% individuals aged 20-34 years; 77.9% men and 22.1% women), which included 170 659 firearm homicides. Those states with amended SYG laws were associated with a national increase of 7.8% in monthly homicide rates, and 8.0% in monthly firearm homicide rates. Increases in violent deaths varied across these states, with the largest increases (16.2% to 33.5%) clustering in the South (e.g., Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana). There were no relationships of SYG laws to any specific demographic groups.

In conclusion, this study, assessing many US states, demonstrated that amended SYG laws were associated with an 8% to 11% national increase in monthly rates of firearm homicide. State-level increases in firearm homicide rates reached 10% or higher for many Southern states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana.

These findings suggest that SYG laws likely increased homicides each year and that the laws should be reconsidered to prevent unnecessary violent deaths. This provides yet another example of reasoning that seems “logical,” but nevertheless must always be subjected to the tribunal of objective and numerical analysis.

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