Highlighted by the 2012 shooting death of Black teen Trayvon Martin, Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law has gained national notoriety over the years.
But the self-defense statue — which gives an individual permission to use lethal force when confronted with what they feel is a deadly threat — has since been linked to a spike in gun-related homicides across the state of Florida, according to a new report.
The study, published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that the state’s implementation of “Stand Your Ground” was actually associated with a 24.4-percent increase in overall homicides and a 31.6-percent increase in gun-related homicides.
According to NBC News, Florida became the first state to enact the shoot-first statue, with other states like Kansas, North Carolina and Louisiana quickly following suit.
“Our hypothesis was that these laws prevent people from taking alternative actions instead of using firearms in critical situations,” said Antonio Gasparrini, an associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a co-author of the study. “We just hope this evidence can be used to form a discussion on the pros and cons of these kinds of laws.”
Gasparrini told NBC News that the report, entitled “Evaluating the Impact of Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Self-Defense Law on Homicide and Suicide by Firearm,” was ultimately aimed at examining the long-term affects of such laws, not pushing any political agenda.
“We don’t have a preference about how this evidence will be used,” he said.
To discover any measurable effects in Florida’s homicide rate after “Stand Your Ground” was passed, researchers examined state homicide data complied in a database run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 1999 and 2014. They then compared dips and spikes in the homicide rate to those in states like New Jersey, New York and Ohio, where such self-defense laws aren’t in place, ABC News reported.
That’s when researchers found that in the years following the controversial law’s passage, homicides increased approximately 24 percent from an average of about 82 per month to 99 per month between October 2005 to 2014. The rate of homicides caused by firearms specifically increased by 32 percent, jumping from 49 homicides per month to 69 in that same time frame.
Researchers also examined suicide data but didn’t find any measurable changes in overall suicides or suicide by firearm rates after Stand Your Ground was passed. The study’s authors noted that other factors may have also contributed to the spike in homicides across the state.
“Circumstances unique to Florida may have contributed to our findings, including those that we could not identify,” the authors wrote.