The Ohio House on Nov. 20 passed sweeping gun legislation that would impose a stand-your-ground law in the state. The bill now requires approval from the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich to become law.
Supporters claim the measure would make the public safer by making it easier for people to defend themselves from criminals, but the research so far shows the law might weaken public safety in a few key areas and actually increase the amount of homicides.
Stand-your-ground laws remove the duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense in places in which a person is lawfully allowed.
Current Ohio law only maintains a traditional “castle doctrine,” which removes the duty to retreat only at a person’s home or vehicle.
The laws have grown particularly controversial following the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida, where a stand-your-ground law exists but supposedly played a minor role in the trial that allowed Zimmerman to go free.
Regardless of what drove Zimmerman to his actions or allowed him to go free, three major studies — two June 2012 papers from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and a July 2013 study from the left-leaning Urban Institute — found stand-your-ground laws fail to deter burglary, robbery or aggravated assault, and might increase homicides and widen racial disparities in the U.S. justice system.
Supporters of stand-your-ground laws typically note that violent crime rates dropped in the states that adopted the laws. But violent crime began dropping nationally before stand-your-ground laws were passed.
The nationwide violent crime rate dropped from 757.7 to 386.3 between 1992 and 2011, with more than half of the drop occurring between 1992 and 1999, according to FBI crime data. The June 2012 paper from NBER found more than 20 states passed traditional castle doctrine or stand-your-ground laws between 2000 and 2010, after the violent crime rate began to drop.
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