"Stand Your Ground" Laws Don't Make Places Safer

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June 27 2012 11:30 AM

"Stand Your Ground" Laws Associated With Increased Levels of Murder

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Gun pyramid!

Photo by ADEK BERRY/AFP/GettyImages

A little research on the impact of "Stand Your Ground" laws courtesy of Ryan Avent's Twitter feed:

The controversies surrounding Stand Your Ground laws have recently captured the nation’s attention. Since 2005, eighteen states have passed laws extending the right to self-defense with no duty to retreat to any place a person has a legal right to be, and several additional states are debating the adoption of similar legislation. Despite the implications that these laws may have for public safety, there has been little empirical investigation of their impact on crime and victimization. In this paper, we use monthly data from the U.S. Vital Statistics to examine how Stand Your Ground laws affect homicides. We identify the impact of these laws by exploiting variation in the effective date of these laws across states. Our results indicate that Stand Your Ground laws are associated with a significant increase in the number of homicides among whites, especially white males. According to our estimates, between 4.4 and 7.4 additional white males are killed each month as a result of these laws. We find no evidence to suggest that these laws increase homicides among blacks. Our results are robust to a number of specifications and unlikely to be driven entirely by the killings of assailants. Taken together, our findings raise serious doubts against the argument that Stand Your Ground laws make America safer.
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It's difficult to make really persuasive cuasal inferences based on this kind of data, but at a minimum this makes it difficult to believe that Stand Your Ground laws are reducing the risks of violence.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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