Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stand Your Ground Law Needs Change

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stand Your Ground Law Needs Change

Article excerpt

Florida's Stand Your Ground law may be responsible for a rising body count on the streets of the state.

A hot-off-the-presses report shows that since the law was implemented over 10 years ago, the state's monthly homicide rate has swollen by 24.4 percent while Florida's homicide by firearm rate per month is up 31.6 percent.

Or, to put it in terms of an actual body count - before the Stand Your Ground law was enacted in Florida, about 82 people were victims of homicide each month. After, that number jumped to 99 people per month.

That works out to about 204 homicides annually - deaths that weren't occurring before the imposition of the law.

The study, just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, mirrors findings from two earlier reports that also showed increased homicide rates in states following the imposition of Stand Your Ground laws.

Those two studies, however, looked at data from a limited number of years both before and after such laws were enacted. In comparison, the newest study is impressive in its scope, comparing Florida's homicide statistics from 1999 to 2014.

Although the most recent study used homicide data supplied by the Centers for Disease Control, homicide data supplied by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows a similar rise.

The new research also looked at whether the skyrocketing number of homicides could be blamed on other factors and found nothing.

In similar states without a Stand Your Ground law, homicide rates were falling or static.

Indeed, the black-and-white graphs in the study, which show an immense jump in Florida's homicide rate after Stand Your Ground was enacted, provide a stunning and deadly indictment of a law that was supposed to protect the community.

The newest findings may seem on their face almost counter intuitive since the law was created to increase the safety of the public.

It opened the door to letting private citizens use deadly force in threatening situations.

LAW DOESN'T WORK AS INTENDED

More specifically, Florida's 2005 Stand Your Ground law gives immunity to people who use lethal force in self-defense, eliminating an individual's duty to retreat instead of fighting when in danger. This state's law was the first in the country and has spawned similar legislation in many other states.

But these laws have run into problems almost from the beginning.

Under the law, people who claim to have killed in self-defense can ask the court to decide before a trial that they acted legally.

A PROSECUTOR'S VIEW

In an addendum to the governor's task force report on the law, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle wrote that the law has created unintended consequences.

For instance, she wrote that the law "does not contain a requirement that the threat be imminent, only that the defendant reasonably believes it is necessary to use deadly force to prevent death or great bodily harm in the commission of a forcible felony. …

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