It seems as though Stand Your Ground Laws are a racist’s wet-dream. Sure there are black people who have attempted to use the law, but we all know when it comes to a black person on trial, justice is served expeditiously. So far in Florida, at least 26 children and teens died in Florida Stand Your Ground cases.
Last year, the Tampa Bay Times analyzed 134 fatal Florida cases in which the Stand Your Ground defense was raised or played a role. Out of the 134, 19 percent of the cases involved the deaths of children or teens. Another 14 involved victims were 20 or 21. And another 8 teens were injured in nonfatal cases. It seems as though these Stand Your Ground laws aren’t doing anything to deter violence, but encouraging it and adding to the murder rate.
Two researchers at Texas A&M took a closer look at the rise in killings due to Stand Your Ground. Mark Hoekstra and Cheng Cheng addressed the issue in a recent study in the Journal of Human Resources that questioned if the strengthening of such self-defense laws deter crime or escalate it.
We asked what happened to homicide rates in states that passed these laws between 2000 and 2010, compared to other states over the same time period. We found that homicide rates in states with a version of the Stand Your Ground law increased by an average of 8 percent over states without it — which translates to roughly 600 additional homicides per year. These homicides are classified by police as criminal homicides, not as justifiable homicides.
The critical question for our research is whether this relative increase in homicide rates was caused by these laws. Several factors lead us to believe that laws are in fact responsible. First, the relative increase in homicide rates occurred in adopting states only after the laws were passed, not before. Moreover, there is no history of homicide rates in adopting states (like Florida) increasing relative to other states. In fact, the post-law increase in homicide rates in states like Florida was larger than any relative increase observed in the last 40 years. Put differently, there is no evidence that states like Florida just generally experience increases in homicide rates relative to other states, even when they don’t pass these laws.
We also find no evidence that the increase is due to other factors we observe, such as demographics, policing, economic conditions, and welfare spending. Our results remain the same when we control for these factors. Along similar lines, if some other factor were driving the increase in homicides, we’d expect to see similar increases in other crimes like larceny, motor vehicle theft and burglary. We do not. We find that the magnitude of the increase in homicide rates is sufficiently large that it is unlikely to be explained by chance.
In fact, there is substantial empirical evidence that these laws led to more deadly confrontations. Making it easier to kill people does result in more people getting killed.
Many people are calling for the Stand Your Ground laws to be repealed or amended, not only in Florida, but the other states that have them on their books. But we all know that won’t happen until non-white people start to use it in their favor.