Gun Control Debate: Do Stand Your Ground Laws Increase Murder Rates?

On Jan. 2, NPR's "All Things Considered" ran a bit about the controversial Stand Your Ground laws that played a roll in the Trayvon Martin case in early 2012. Their premise was that homicide rates had increased in states that had implemented some form of Stand Your Ground Laws. One fact, though, stood out: "Because murder is a rare phenomenon, the numbers in any given state can be hard to analyze. It can be difficult, for example, to disentangle the effects of stand your ground statutes from other trends, such as natural fluctuations in the crime rate. Until now, there has been little attempt to rigorously study these laws at a national level."

So let me get this straight ... Murder is rare, and the numbers are hard to analyze. This seems to imply that past murder rates aren't the most reliable. How exactly can one tell that murder rates went up, when it could be that the means of measuring murder have just gotten more accurate?

I will be the first to admit that Stand Your Ground laws are imperfect. Clearly, they need to be improved, as the Trayvon Martin case demonstrated. I love the idea, however — that citizens can defend themselves. In fact, one could argue that someone with a concealed carry permit was able to intervene in the Clackamas Towne Center shooting on Dec. 11, 2012 in Oregon. (A shooting that the media had almost completely ignored, by the way.)

Economist Mark Hoesktra also told NPR that "we find that there are 500 to 700 more homicides per year across the 23 states as a result of the laws." Once again, this seems unfair. There are a lot of reasons, besides this law, that a state could have higher murder rates ... like, I don't know, a large urban population? Let's compare the murder rate of large cities like Chicago to rural and suburban areas. There is going to be a dramatic difference. Are we going to blame laws for that, too?

Attacks on Stand Your Ground laws really just ties into the national gun control debate as whole. Many in the media blame guns for violence while forgetting that many, many gun crimes are committed with illegal guns. Let's take Newtown, for instance. As soon as Adam Lanza murdered his mother and stole her gun, it was illegal. Period. Lanza was a disturbed individual, tried to buy a gun legally and failed. He went to more drastic measures. If he hadn't stolen a gun from his mother, he would've stolen it from someone or somewhere else.

The gun control debate is really about control. Whoever has the guns, calls the shots. Take guns out of law-abiding citizens' hands and give them to the government, and we begin to lose our freedoms. Let many citizens own guns, and you empower them to protect themselves from criminals. More importantly, it keeps the government in check ... and that's just the way the Founders wanted it to be.

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Liz Thatcher

A native of Wichita, KS, Liz has been passionate about writing and all things political since high school. Liz is an alumna of The Master's College where she received a Bachelors of Arts in Political Studies. She is currently a staff analyst and writer for the Media Research Center in Alexandria, VA.

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