Gun deaths have risen sharply since the passage of Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” gun law, a new study found.
The report, published this month in JAMA Internal Medicine, analyzed data from 1999 to 2014 and discovered that homicides in Florida have increased 24.4 percent, while gun-related homicides are up 31.6 percent since the law was enacted in 2005 under then-Gov. Jeb Bush.
Florida’s “stand your ground” law protects people who use deadly force when citing self-defense ― even if escape is an option. The law received increased scrutiny in the wake of George Zimmerman’s fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager. Although Zimmerman’s lawyers did not invoke the law during his defense, a juror told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that it affected the jury’s “not guilty” verdict.
The National Rifle Association pushed for and helped draft the legislation. Following its passage, then-Miami Police Chief John Timoney called the law a “license to murder” and warned it could drive an increase of lethal force “where it shouldn’t be used.”
Florida was the first of more than 20 states to expand similar self-defense legislation. While some experts are skeptical of the link between these laws and increased killings, “a 2013 academic study that compared 20 ‘stand your ground’ states with states where the duty to retreat still exists found an 8 percent increase in homicide associated with the laws,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
CLARIFICATION: Language has been changed to reflect more accurately the role of Florida’s “stand your ground” law in the Martin trial.