April 6th, 2012 By Kevin Osborne | News | Posted In: Special Interest Groups, Government, Protests, Business, Republicans

Analysis: 'Stand Your Ground' States Have More Shootings

Shadowy ALEC group helps push for the laws


An analysis of U.S. crime data by a British newspaper has found there’s been a 25 percent increase in civilian justifiable homicides since the controversial “stand your ground” (SYG) laws started being introduced in 2005.

London’s Guardian newspaper analyzed data from FBI and state sources. It concludes that the spike in civilian justifiable homicides is related not only to SYG laws, but also weak gun control laws in certain states.

Florida was the first state to introduce an SYG law in 2005 and similar measures have now been adopted in some form by more than 20 states. Most were passed in 2006. Ohio doesn’t yet have such a law, but it’s believed that gun advocates might be planning a campaign for one here soon.

Florida’s SYG law is expected to be part of the defense made for George Zimmerman, if he is charged with a crime. Zimmerman was the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed an unarmed African-American teenager, Trayvon Martin, Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. The incident has triggered widespread public outrage.

The Guardian’s analysis shows that SYG laws alone cannot be statistically linked with the rise in justifiable homicides.

But in states with both SYG laws and the weakest gun control laws — as defined by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence — it found a statistical correlation with an increase in justifiable homicides.

Across the United States, such killings have risen sharply over the past five years, according to the data provided by the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. From 2001-05, there were 1,225 homicides classified as justifiable, compared to 1,528 in the period 2006-10. By contrast, violent crime overall has been falling.

"The police are shooting more people and citizens are shooting more people. We're evolving into an increasingly coarse society with no obligation to diffuse a situation and rapidly turn to force,” said Professor Dennis Kenney, of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and an ex-police sergeant in Florida. "People are literally getting away with murder."

SYG laws allow a potential crime victim who is in fear of “grave harm” to use deadly force in public places, not just inside their own homes. They eliminate the legal requirement to retreat before a person may claim he or she acted in self-defense.

SYG laws have been pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model legislation for state lawmakers to use.

State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) is among ALEC's leaders, as CityBeat has previously reported here and here. The group, which held its annual meeting in Cincinnati last spring, has a membership of nearly 2,000 state legislators and around 300 private-sector members.

Funded by the Koch brothers, the National Rifle Association, oil companies and others, ALEC’s model bills have served as the template for "voter ID" laws that swept the nation in 2011, for the voucher programs that privatize public education, for anti-immigrant legislation, and for the wave of anti-labor union legislation pushed during the past two years in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Arizona, New Hampshire and elsewhere.

This week Coca-Cola and PepsiCo dropped their memberships in ALEC, amid the threat of boycotts.

In 2010 National Public Radio reported that Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), a private-sector ALEC board member, participated in the drafting of Arizona Senate Bill No. 1070. The report documented the behind-the-scenes effort to draft and pass the law and how the CCA stood to benefit from people incarcerated under it.

Marvin Meadors, a Huffington Post contributor, has described ALEC as “a bill-churning mill which uses corporate money to draft model legislation that advances the agenda of the Far Right and encourages crony capitalism.”

04.06.2012 at 02:37 Reply

It is surprising to me that someone who lives in Ohio would be against this. Considering that no city in your state is safe and people are murdered in them everyday. Go take a walk in east Cleveland, or over the rhine in Cincinnati, 3rd st in Dayton or in Elyria or some other small town like Lorraine. People in this country have a right to defend themselves against the active lawlessness and violence that is taking place everywhere. Justifable homicide rates may be increasing, but I am sure that many innocent people who would have been murdered have been spared. Eventually criminals will get the idea that if you try to harm or rob some innocent person, they may just kill you and crime rates will drop. Ohio is a terrible place to live and it is full of drugs and crime, if you don't like the idea of people defending themselves against the murdering criminals in our society. Do something to remedy the problem, instead of writing derogatory columns about what everyday people are being forced to do, to survive and to protect their families.


04.07.2012 at 09:45

You write: "Justifable homicide rates may be increasing, but I am sure that many innocent people who would have been murdered have been spared. ". Can you back that up and give us some examples?

Then you say :"Eventually criminals will get the idea that if you try to harm or rob some innocent person, they may just kill you and crime rates will drop. ". 

It is obvious that you are naive. If I am going to harm or rob someone and there is any chance that person will jeopardize my effort or possibly be a witness, he or she will be shot more readily.  I learned that in the army.

I think that if we are going to be able to stand our ground, we should be able to stand our ground against government and business people and the wealthy that are a great threat to the well being of most (90%) of our fellow citizens. 


04.06.2012 at 02:57 Reply

I go walking through Over-the-Rhine literally every day -- and yes, that includes at night. Like any city or even small town, a person has to be aware of their surroundings. That said, in 13 years, I have never been a victim of crime there. Stop fear-mongering.


04.07.2012 at 08:16 Reply

My state, Mississippi, is shown as a SYG state in your map. It is not. We have the Castle Doctrine, which does not require retreat in your own home or your own business if feloniously threatened. But the Castle Doctrine does not apply to "the street" in Mississippi. Mississippi does require retreat, if possible, in possible self-defense situations outside the home. Happy to say, in my city we have had no homicides at all in the past year and no self-defense shootings at all. Meridian, MS, the closest large city has had only two or three justifiable shootings over the past year, all investigated thoroughly. It has had no police shootings at all that I can remember. As a matter of procedure, Mr. Zimmerman would have been charged immediately if the incident had occurred in our state.