Stand Your Ground Laws Increase Homicide Rate, Says Study

The supporters of so called “Stand your Ground” laws say they were enacted to make America a safer place. However, an analysis of these laws in states including Texas, suggest they have led to an increase in the homicide rate but no apparent reduction in crimes such as burglaries and robberies.

An analysis by the Houston Chronicle looked a statistics since Texas’s version of “Stand Your Ground,” known as the “Castle Doctrine,” was enacted in 2007.

It showed that justifiable killings have increased from a statewide 32 in 2006 to 48 in 2010. There were 27 justifiable homicides in Houston alone, the newspaper reported. Dallas, which recorded 9 in 2010, also saw an increase.

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law made headlines recently after the killing of African-American teen Trayvon Martin by, neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. We reported on the facts of this case in a recent article. While Zimmerman attempted to use the “Stand Your Ground” defense he was later charged with second-degree murder.

These laws are controversial because they go beyond the principle that a victim can use reasonable force if somebody is on his or her property. Texas expanded a Senate bill in 2007, so that a person can stand his or her ground beyond their home to include their vehicles and workplaces.

Under the Texas Castle Doctrine a person has certain protections when he or she uses deadly force to defend a home, car or place of work from intruders.

The International Business Times reported on a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research in June, 2012 that revealed that 18 states have passed controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws since 2005.

In a review of monthly data from of national statistics, researchers from the bureau uncovered an increase in the number of homicides among whites, in particular white males.

“The bureau estimated that between 4.4 and 7.4 additional white males are killed each month because of these laws,” the International Business Times reported.

“Our evidence and certainly some other studies floating around out there find that these laws don’t work in the way they were intended to work,” Chandler B. McClellan, a doctoral student from Georgia State University told Raw Story last month. “What we do see is a net increase in deaths.”

Researchers at Texas A&M University also sought answers as to whether the Castle Doctrine deterred crimes in Texas and further afield. They found little evidence that it was working in the way its proponents hoped it would.

The researchers found no deterrence in robberies, aggravated assaults and burglaries. They said they found an 8 percent increase in homicides, translating to hundreds of additional killings a year in states like Texas.

Statistics such as this, along with cases such as the killing of Trayvon Martin, will ensure the Castle Doctrine remains one of the most controversial pieces of criminal law in Texas for some time to come.

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.