Stand Down, Don’t Stand Your Ground

So, it appears that another piece of pro-gun mythology has been debunked.  Two studies, one from Texas A&M and one from Georgia State, have found that “Stand Your Ground” laws do not deter crime, and instead actually increase homicide rates.

The Texas A&M study found that the law accounted for an additional 600 homicides in states with “Stand Your Ground” legislation in place, an increase of 8 percent.  The study simultaneously “found no detectable decrease in burglary, robbery or aggravated assault.”  The Georgia State study, using different methodology, found a similar increase of 7.1 percent.  Importantly, neither study found that the increase was due to justifiable homicides—that is, shootings in which a shooter is “standing his ground” against an imminent threat.

It was suggested by pro-gun groups that “Stand Your Ground” laws would lead to a decrease in crime, as criminals would be aware that homeowners (or other victims) would be justified in shooting them.  This would supposedly act as incentive for criminals not to engage in criminal behavior.  This has proved not to be the case:

“Collectively, these findings suggest that incentives do matter in one important sense: lowering the threshold for the justified use of lethal force results in more of it,” the authors concluded in the report. “On the other hand, there is also a limit to the power of incentives, as criminals are apparently not deterred when victims are empowered to use lethal force to protect themselves.”

Though it is interesting to see that data backs up the beliefs of those opposed to the law, it is really just common sense.  If people are given more freedom to shoot their guns without legal consequence, they will shoot their guns more often.  And, if someone believes that they are “standing their ground” they will not look for ways to avoid confrontation, and might even seek it out.  The better solution would be to give people reason to avoid confrontation altogether.  Involving firearms only escalates situations that might otherwise be defused.  Guns embolden people who might otherwise rationally seek to settle arguments without violence.  Giving them more freedom to use their weapons in situations where they are not needed was a bad idea from the start, and now there is data to confirm it.

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