The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a research report entitled “Evaluating the impact of Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ self-defense law on homicide and suicide by firearm.”
The summary of this research indicates that following the passage of Florida’s law, there was a sudden and sustained increase of 24 percent in the homicide rate caused by firearms. The authors of this study found that states that did not have a “stand your ground” law did not have an increase in homicides in the same time frame. This suggests that the 24 percent increase was due to shootings secondary to passage of the law, and not to an increase in the general crime rate.
The Iowa legislature is now considering a “stand your ground” law. “Stand your ground” means that a person has the “right to use deadly force to defend themselves, even in public places, without the duty to try and retreat first.” According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, there were 68 firearm related homicides in 2015. If there were a 24 percent increase in homicides in Iowa, as happened in Florida following passage of the law, in 2015, 84 people would have died instead of 68.
Further, the homicide rate in 2015 was lower than in 2014, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health statistics. It is hard to know what the rationale might be for Iowa to be put into the position of increasing our unnecessary homicide rate by 24 percent, as happened in Florida.
More than 20 states have passed “stand your ground” laws since Florida’s effort. I do not know if studies have been done to examine homicide rates following the passage of laws in those states; maybe there was not a uniform 24 percent increase in homicide deaths.
But I think that Iowa can do better. We can do better with increased policing, we can do better with education and job creation, we can do better with multi-faceted efforts to increase the safety and health of our citizens. Stand your ground laws only result in more deaths, not in more safety and not in more health.