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Stand your ground impacts

concealed-gunSince the 1960s, Arizona’s violent crime rate has usually been just above the national average, and has dipped and spiked along with national trends, normally hovering around 5-10 percent above the U.S. average.

Practically every state’s violent crime rate has risen and fallen over the past 50 years along with the U.S. average.

According to an analysis by Texas A&M economics professors Cheng Cheng and Mark Hoekstra, 21 states enacted laws that include any of the four main elements of the stand-your-ground law framework between 2000 and 2010, mostly around 2006. Some researchers count as few as nine and as many as 25 state laws as fitting the stand-your-ground model.

The majority of them have seen crime rates fall slightly. Stand-your-ground laws generally give individuals the right to use reasonable force to defend themselves without any requirement to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation.

Violent crime rates over time

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When compared to the overall national trend, most states’ crime rates have remained steady, with a few rising, relative to the national average.
North and South Dakota both have seen their crime rates increase since passing their version of the stand-your-ground law.

And the crime rates in Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia also did not decrease as rapidly as the nationalaverage, since passing their version of the law.

Cheng and Hoekstra argue that the introduction of these laws has led to a “statistically significant 8 percent net increase in the number of reported murders and non-negligent manslaughters.”
The economists argue that the adjustments made by these laws essentially “reduce the expected cost of using lethal force,” and that “lowering the threshold for the justified use of lethal force results in more of it.”

Cheng and Hoekstra’s conclusion that the law does not have a desirable impact is backed up by a study by economists from Georgia State University and a 2007 study by the National District Attorneys Association.

State violent crime rates vs national average

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But John R. Lott, Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of More Guns, Less Crime, argues that African Americans, women, and the elderly are most likely to benefit from stand-your-ground laws. Lott also says that the 9 states with what he classifies as stand-your-ground laws show a nine percent decrease in in the murder rate, and an 11 percent decrease in overall crime.

While the Stanford Law Review concluded that stand-your-ground states have seen a temporary increase in aggravated assaults, their study stresses that available crime data is not suitable for drawing sweeping conclusions.

Arizona’s crime rate has decreased about 25 percent since former Gov. Janet Napolitano signed Arizona’s stand-your-ground law in 2006. That’s just slightly more than the national average, which came down about 19 percent during the same period.

The crime rate in Arizona’s, mirroring the national trend, has dropped about 50 percent since 1992, at the height of a violent crime rate swell that began in the late 1960s.

Violent crime rates over time

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— Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, “Does Strengthening Self-Defense Law Deter Crime or Escalate Violence? Evidence from Expansions to Castle Doctrine” by Cheng Cheng and Mark Hoekstra, Texas A&M University Department of Economics

Study: Does Strengthening Self-Defense Law Deter Crime or Escalate Violence? Evidence from Expansions to Castle Doctrine


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