Report: Stand Your Ground Laws Increase Gun Violence, Perpetuate Racial Disparities
Report from Coalition to Stop Gun Violence details how stand your ground laws embolden armed vigilantes and most often benefit armed white men
WASHINGTON– March 4, 2021– In recent months, Arkansas and Ohio passed stand your ground laws and over a dozen other states have introduced legislation to create or expand upon existing such laws, increasing the risk of gun violence for all people living in those states. In a new report released today, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence details how these laws embolden armed vigilantes and perpetuate structural racism embedded within our criminal justice system by most often benefiting white men, often at the expense of Black victims. These laws, championed by the gun lobby, overturn centuries of legal precedent, allowing people to avoid criminal prosecution for the use of deadly force even when the person could easily and safely retreat. The new report analyzes academic research and reporting on the laws.
“Stand your ground legalizes a shoot-first culture of violence which almost exclusively protects white men, often men who had a previous history of misusing guns,” said Josh Horwitz, CSGV executive director. “Gun violence is already a crisis in the United States, and the proliferation of stand your ground laws across more than half the states is leading to more gun deaths and less accountability. We must protect Americans by repealing these dangerous, racist laws now.”
The report details how stand your ground laws have repeatedly allowed people to shoot and kill others even when it is clear that the shooters could have easily and safely walked away. States have justified the killings of victims who were facing away, retreating, or even lying on the ground when they were shot. One study of Florida’s law found that in 79% of the cases where stand your ground claims succeeded, the defendant could have retreated to avoid the confrontation, and in 68% of successful claims, the person killed was unarmed.
The report also describes how stand your ground laws increase homicides and gun injuries. One study of FBI data found that there was no evidence that these laws reduce burglary, robbery, or aggravated assault. Instead, it found that the passage of stand your ground laws was linked to an 8% increase in the number of homicides, translating to an additional 600 homicides annually across states that adopted such laws.
Stand your ground laws contribute to the killing of Black individuals with impunity by giving a green light to people with no bias training, no firearms training, and no de-escalation training to use deadly force within a matter of seconds. Before Florida’s stand your ground law took effect in 2005, Black adolescents ages 15-19 were twice as likely to be shot and killed as their white counterparts; after the law was passed, they became three times more likely to be shot and killed. When a white person shoots a Black person in a stand your ground state, the odds that the homicide will be ruled justified increase by seven percentage points.
“Stand your ground laws perpetuate racism,” said Ari Davis, senior policy analyst at CSGV. “Stand your ground laws often protect white shooters who are targeting Black victims. White men are more likely to successfully invoke stand your ground laws for their defense than Black Americans or women, especially Black women. Repealing stand your ground laws will not only save lives, but will also reduce structural racism in our criminal justice system.”
CSGV’s full report and an in-depth resource page on stand your ground laws are available online as part of the research library developed by CSGV’s affiliate organization, the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. These resources also include state- and county-level statistics about gun deaths in addition to analysis of U.S. firearm homicides, suicides, and community gun violence, as well as prevention policies such as extreme risk protection orders, universal background checks and more.
Tom Fazzini, West End Strategy Team
About the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is the nation’s oldest gun violence prevention organization. The organization and its 501(c)(3) affiliate organization the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (EFSGV) use a public health and equity lens to identify, advocate for, and implement evidence-based policy solutions and programs to reduce gun violence in all its forms. They seek to make gun violence rare and abnormal. EFSGV is the gun violence prevention movement’s premier research intermediary and founder of the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, a group of researchers and academics who collaborate to develop innovative recommendations for policymakers.