Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law was associated with a sharp increase in killings in the state, according to a new study whose lead author said he hoped it would prompt lawmakers to re-examine the impact of the law and consider changing it.
But some researchers questioned the suggestion in the study—which was published this month in JAMA Internal Medicine, a top medical journal—of a link between the homicide rate increase and the Florida self-defense law. Previous research on “stand your ground” laws have produced varying results.
Florida was one of the first to expand the concept of self-defense outside the home, with a 2005 law that protects people who use deadly force in response to a threat they reasonably believe could cause them serious injury, even when escape is an option.
Florida’s law is one of about two dozen around the country that statehouses passed from 2005 to 2011, urged on by the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups.
Figures from Florida authorities had already shown that justifiable homicides, or those deemed in self-defense, tripled to an annual average of 36 in the five years after the passage of Florida’s law. But the study found the law was linked to an increase in homicides generally.
Before the law eliminated a longstanding legal duty to retreat in situations outside the home, the average monthly homicide rate in Florida was 0.49 death per 100,000 people, while the monthly firearm-related homicide rate was 0.29 death per 100,000.
Researchers looking at data from 1999 to 2014 found a 24% increase in Florida’s monthly homicide rate and a 32% increase in the monthly rate of firearm-related killings following the law’s passage, according to the study.