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Stand Your Ground, Raise Your Crime Rate?

Laws designed to give individuals the right to defend themselves may be leading to increased rates of murder, rape, and robbery.

By Tom Jacobs


(Illustration: Elias Stein)

Since 2000, 25 states have passed “Stand Your Ground” laws, which give citizens who feel physically threatened the right to defend themselves with lethal force — wherever they happen to be.

A recent analysis of crime rates by Mark Gius of Quinnipiac University finds the results are troubling. First, he writes in The Social Science Journal, “Stand Your Ground” states have crime rates that are either higher, or not significantly different, from other states. But more startlingly, after analyzing three decades of data, he found these statutes “result in an increase in murder, gun-related murder, rape, and robbery.” Precisely why is unclear, but he offers one possible explanation: As more people feel they have the right to take violent action in tense situations, “minor altercations may be escalating into killings.”

“Clearly,” Gius concludes, “society does not benefit when a public policy results in more crime and death.”