I’ve long been a proponent of Stand Your Ground laws. I don’t believe someone should be prosecuted for not trying to run away when faced with a deadly threat. While there are some cases that might make more sense–a mass shooting in a mall when you’re there with your family on the opposite side of the building, for example–there are others when there may not be an opportunity to even look for a way out.
Duty To Retreat laws allow prosecutors to play Monday morning quarterback and penalize people for not making the same assessment in the heat of the moment that the DA’s office does days after the fact.
That’s just not right.
Yet a new study suggests that the law actually leads to an increase in homicides.
Credible research indicating a link between stand-your-ground laws and an increase in firearm homicides should persuade states that have passed such laws to repeal them, says a RAND study.
More than two-thirds of states now have laws on the books giving individuals the right to use deadly force in self-defense if they feel threatened. The measures, some of which explicitly remove the “duty to retreat” when faced with what is perceived as a life-threatening assault at home or place of work, were promoted as a deterrence measure that would save lives.
But there is “supportive evidence” from research studies that the laws “actually make people less safe, and instead more likely to be the victim of a firearm homicide,” RAND said.
As a result, RAND argued, “states with stand-your-ground laws should consider repealing them as a strategy for reducing firearm homicides.”
The recommendation was contained in a review of studies by dozens of researchers investigating the impact of U.S. firearms policies released Wednesday under RAND’s Gun Policy of America Initiative.
The study also yielded a couple of bits that might be of interest to the pro-gun side, namely that right-to-carry laws don’t seem to increase violent crime and even laws barring those with mental health issues from having guns doesn’t seem to accomplish much of anything either.
But the slam against the Stand Your Ground laws are a big deal, right?
Well, yes and no.
The RAND study is a metastudy, which is typically the highest form of research, which looks at a number of other studies and puts things together based on that. In fact, this is based on seven studies that RAND picked because they didn’t appear to have flawed methodologies.
RAND found “supportive evidence” suggesting that Stand Your Ground Laws might lead to an increase in firearm homicides. They found no evidence that such laws lead to an increase in violent crime in general and only moderate evidence that it leads to an increase in total homicides.
Which, of course, leads one to ask, “Why?”
It’s important to understand one big flaw that all of these studies are going to have, and that’s the fact that they find correlation, not causation. While the studies in question recorded an increase in gun homicides during the given period, they generally don’t account for other factors that might have also led to an increase in homicides.
The metastudy also didn’t account for any potential bias among researchers as a whole, either. I’m not saying that there was any, but based on what we’ve seen out of so many other studies, I have to question how vigorous the peer review processes on these studies were in the first place, especially if it told them what they wanted to hear.
Of course, it’s also possible that it’s dead-on accurate. I can imagine untrained people deciding that since they don’t have to retreat, they won’t, so they start fumbling with their clothing to get their firearm, only to get shot. I can also see people without a gun thinking the law means something completely different and getting shot as a result.
After all, all laws have unintended consequences, and Stand Your Ground laws aren’t any different. It’s possible that one such consequence is that stupid people are doing new stupid things and are getting shot as a result.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter. Stand Your Ground laws are about keeping people from being prosecuted for defending their own life. Plain and simple. I refuse to give up that right so that the government can try to cushion me from threats only to make me more vulnerable to others. They can trot out all the studies they want to claim whatever they want. It doesn’t matter, nor should it.
Freedom isn’t safe. It’s messy and scary, which is why so many people don’t want anything to do with it, but without freedom, you’re at the mercy of tyrants and history shows us how little mercy tyrants actually have.