New research out of the University of Georgia finds a significant increase in homicides in states that have what are known as Stand Your Ground laws. In June of 2011, the New Hampshire legislature became the 24th state in the nation to pass a Stand Your Ground Law – that’s a law that allows someone to fire a gun in self-defense, even when he or she can safely retreat.
In New Hampshire, you can be on your lawn, on a bus, outside a library or in any public space, and fire a weapon in self-defense. Even if you could retreat safely – that’s thanks to the Stand Your Ground Law that passed the legislature – overriding the Governor’s veto, back in 2011.
Supporters of the bill claimed the legislation – which was supported by the NRA -- would reduce crime and deter criminals.
Economists Chandler McClellan and Erdal Tekin have been analyzing mortality data from the National Institute of Health to understand the effect of Stand Your Ground Laws on the decisionmaking of gunholders. McClellan says that the laws may be more harmful than legislators expected.
"Overall, it looks like these laws are resulting in increased firearm mortality."
McClellan says that rather than deterring criminals, the Stand Your Ground Laws end up encouraging gun owners to fire, when they could have retreated.
"With the Stand Your Ground law in effect, you don’t have to worry about if you're going to go to jail if you pull the trigger, so there's not that incentive to trying to find an alternative resolution to the situation.”
McClellan’s research shows that those states that passed Stand Your Ground laws experienced an increase in deaths by an average of about 8.5 homicides per state each month – although these numbers don’t include New Hampshire, which passed the Stand Your Ground Law after the study had begun.
Richard Feldman is a former lobbyist for the NRA who currently lives in New Hampshire. He says the law will make mistakes no matter what.
"If we have the retreat rule, we may put the onus on the legitimate person having to defend their use. If we have, as we do, the Stand Your Ground, we put the onus on law enforcement to prove that they didn't."
University of Georgia economist Chandler McClellan says the increase in deaths resulting from Stand Your Ground Laws affected white men far more than any other demographic.