Gun homicides have jumped in Florida by more than 30 percent in the decade since lawmakers passed the “stand your ground” self-defense law.
Florida was the first state to pass the law, which allows deadly force if a person believes they faces great bodily harm, and a recent study found an “abrupt and sustained” increase in the state’s homicide rate since then, reported The Daytona Beach News-Journal.
The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found the monthly rate of homicides by firearm had increased by 31.6 percent since the law was enacted in 2005.
“It’s not surprising because when you lessen the standard for self-defense you create more opportunity for the use of deadly force,” said Charles Rose, a law professor at Stetson University’s College of Law. “When you have more opportunity for the use of deadly force you are going to have more fatalities. It’s pretty much guaranteed.”
The lawmaker who proposed the legislation complained that the study did not take into account the crimes he believes have been prevented by the “stand your ground” law.
“I do have some questions about the validity of their conclusions and concerns that they may have started with a conclusion in mind,” said Sen. Dennis Baxley, a Republican. “You do see a continual decline in violent crime since 2005, and I like to think that our policies have a part in that.”
Florida’s crime rate has been dropping, with few exceptions, since the law was passed — but that trend began a decade earlier, in 1995.
The law, which eliminates the duty to retreat in potentially deadly situations, drew national attention after George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin in 2012.
Zimmerman did not depend on the law but was acquitted after claiming he shot the unarmed teenager in self defense.
Defendants can request hearings under the law to ask juries to drop charges, but defense attorneys must prove the stand your ground law applies.
Baxley would like to expand the law by requiring prosecutors to prove the law does not apply in individual cases.
Rose, the law professor, believes the law leads to more violence and should be repealed, but he doubted that would ever happen.
“The stand your ground law has been and will remain a political statement about the constitutional right to bear arms,” Rose said. “It creates misunderstandings and a more dangerous environment on the streets of Florida.”