A&M researchers say laws have no impact in reducing street crime
Research conducted at Texas A&M University concludes that far from reducing crime rates, so called 'Stand your Ground' laws are actually responsible for a drastic increase in the number of homicides nationwide each year.
"We find the laws increase murder and manslaughter by a statistically significant 7 to 9 percent, which translates into an additional 500 to 700 homicides per year nationally in states which have adopted Castle Doctrine," researchers Cheng Cheng and Mark Hoekstra of the Texas A&M University Department of Economics say in their report.
The report also shows an increase in what is termed 'justifiable homicide' by up to 50% annually. They say data released by the states showed a sharp increase in justifiable homicide in the years immediately after they approved Stand Your Ground laws.
"Castle Doctrine," or "Stand Your Ground" laws are currently in pace in 23 states, and new attention was focused on the laws by the shooting of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Florida in February. The laws remove the so called 'duty to retreat' which dates from English Common Law. That tradition holds that before a person can use deadly force against an attacker, they must first take affirmative steps to defuse the situation.
The researchers say in many of the additional cases of murder and justifiable homicide they researched, the killing occurred because the "Stand Your Ground" law allowed the situation to escalate, where it would have otherwise been defused, largely by one of the individuals retreating.
"Regardless of how one interprets increases from various classifications, it is clear that the primary effect of strengthening self-defense law is to increase homicide," the researchers conclude.
The researchers also say that strengthening concealed carry and Castle Doctrine laws also have no 'meaningful deterrence' against crimes like burglary and robbery, something they conceded surprised them.
"We would expect that these crimes would decline after the adoption of castle doctrine, to the extend that criminals respond to higher actual or perceived risks that the victims will use lethal force to protect themselves," they said.
But the report indicates that assumes that criminals are rational, an assumption which is not borne out by the facts.
"While castle doctrine law may well have benefits to those protecting themselves in self-defense (meaning the individual cases where a person uses a weapon to deter a specific crime), there is no evidence that the law provides positive spillovers by deterring crime more generally," they say.
In fact, they say the response of criminals to the idea that the victim may be armed is to arm themselves as well, turning what otherwise would have been burglaries and robberies into homicides.
"Regardless, the results indicate that a primary consequence of strengthening self-defense laws is increased homicide," the report concludes.