A new article out last week analyzes 25 prior empirical studies that examine the effects of stand-your-ground laws on population health outcomes. In Effects of Laws Expanding Civilian Rights to Use Deadly Force in Self-Defense on Violence and Crime: A Systematic Review, Alexa Yakubovich and co-authors conclude that the evidence shows these laws have not reduced violent crime and that “[i]n at least some US states, most notably Florida, stand-your-ground laws have been associated with increases in homicides and there has been racial bias in the application of legal protections.” They discuss the evidence that dozens of researchers have collected in assessing the impact of stand-your-ground laws on a variety of metrics. Evidence suggests these laws tend to increase violent crime, not decrease it as prominent supporters of the law suggest. And with respect to racial disparities, the studies out of Florida—one of the most heavily studied jurisdictions—tend to suggest that black deaths matter less than white ones. A homicide is more likely to be ruled justifiable if the victim is black, even controlling for other characteristics of the encounter.
Despite such evidence, much of which has been well-known for years, states are continuing to adopt stand-your-ground laws—most recently in Ohio. This trend is part of a larger project of statutory gun-rights expansion that I chronicle and describe in, Securing Gun Rights By Statute: The Right To Keep and Bear Arms Outside the Constitution, forthcoming in the Michigan Law Review. The disjunction between what the social science shows and what states are doing may also be evidence for Dan Kahan’s theory that the debate over gun rights and regulation is not about whoever has the better empirical argument, but over culture. Instead of data and statistics, Kahan argues, it is “cultural allegiances and outlooks that determine citizens’ attitudes toward gun control.”