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The Deadly Consequences of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law

In 2012, the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin brought national attention to Florida’s dangerous Stand Your Ground law. Although the shooter did not invoke a Stand Your Ground defense during his trial, coverage of the shooting frequently included discussion of the law.

Yesterday, a suit filed by the shooter against Martin’s family has put the law and its deadly consequences back in the headlines. In the years before and since Trayvon Martin’s death, Florida’s Stand Your Ground law has enabled killers with violent histories to avoid murder charges. 

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law has been associated with a 32 percent increase in firearm homicide rates since its adoption in 2005. A Tampa Bay Times analysis of Stand Your Ground cases showed that it has been “those with records of crime and violence — who have benefited most from the controversial legislation.” 

Other staggering findings from that analysis include: 

  • Nearly 60 percent of those who have invoked Stand Your Ground in Florida had been arrested at least once before they killed someone. 
  • In 79 percent of Florida Stand Your Ground cases, the person who invoked Stand Your Ground could have retreated to avoid the confrontation.
  • In 68 percent of those cases, the person killed was unarmed.

Florida was the first state to pass a Stand Your Ground law but was not the last. Across the country, Stand Your Ground laws have led to escalated violence and gun deaths in situations that could have been otherwise defused. In fact, at least 30 people nationwide are killed each month as a result of Stand Your Ground laws. Stand Your Ground also has a disproportionate impact on communities of color. When white shooters kill Black victims, the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable 11 times more frequently than when the shooter is Black and the victim is white.

In October, RAND Corporation released a follow-up to their Gun Policy in America research initiative reinforcing many of its findings that Stand Your Ground laws are not shown to deter crime and “may be causing more harm than good.” 

More information on the dangers of Stand Your Ground is available here. If you’d like to connect with a policy expert who can speak to the dangers of Stand Your Ground, please reach out.