The news: If you are deeply angered by "stand your ground" laws, then the American Bar Association (ABA) finally has the data to make your case.
In a preliminary report released Friday, the ABA argues that "stand your ground" (SYG) laws perpetuate racial intolerance and are linked to increased homicide rates. The NRA-backed laws are not only ineffective, but they also threaten lives.
The reports concludes that SYG laws should be repealed because they encourage a "shoot first" mentality, which leads to a rise in homicides, particularly among black individuals, reports ThinkProgress. By conducting surveys, preliminary hearings and analyzing data, investigators discovered that the laws don't even effectively deter crime.
Case studies: The self-defense laws, which are in effect to varying degrees in 33 states, permit citizens to stand their ground against an imminent threat by "[meeting] force with force, including deadly force," the report outlined.
Florida has had several high-profile cases where the law has been used "to justify over 200 shootings, stabbing, assaults and murders since 2005."
The Trayvon Martin shooting in 2012, when neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman killed the unarmed 17-year-old, is one of the most notable "stand your ground" cases. A jury eventually found Zimmerman innocent. In another case, Michael Dunn used the SYG law to defend the 10 shots he fired into a car with four black kids who wouldn't turn down the music when Dunn asked them to.
Arizona, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Texas also have "stand your ground" laws that have resulted in four tragic deaths but no criminal prosecution.
Key findings: The American Bar Association looked into what they call the "five regional fora," where they held five public hearings to assess studies and individual testimony on the effectiveness of "stand your ground" laws.
One study cited says that states with "stand your ground" policies experienced an 8% increase in homicides compared with states without the law, which confirmed another study from researchers that analyzed FBI data from 2000 to 2010 and found an 8% surge in fatalities in states with SYG laws, which is 600 more homicides a year.
If that isn't jarring enough, the report also cites that 60% of people invoking the law have previously been arrested, and 70% of people using the law never receive punishment.
According to the report, the law also leads to racial disparity as there is a far greater impact on minorities from SYG.
"Defendants asserting 'stand your ground' are more likely to prevail on the merits if the victim is black," the report says. John Roman, a member of the report, discovered that "a white shooter that kills a black victim is 350% more likely to be found to be justified [by 'stand your ground'] than if the same shooter killed a white victim."
The takeaway: "Stand your ground" laws are becoming ubiquitous in the U.S., and their impacts on our livelihoods are very real and very dire. These facts come amidst riots in Ferguson, Mo., after a policeman shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, and rampant improper gun usage amongst young people. Put that in context with citizens who are shooting first, oftentimes killing someone, and have the law to back up their actions.
Thirty-three states allow residents to unjustly get away with murder —the ABA report proves that. Armed with the facts that "stand your ground" laws are dangerous, we need to actively take a step toward abolishing them. Sign a petition, support legislation against them and help to get its eradication onto ballots in those 33 states.
"Stand your ground" laws may be killing innocent people, but it certainly doesn't have to be that way.