Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Stand your ground laws and homicides

Earlier I posted on a paper that asked Does Strengthening Self-Defense Law Deter Crime or Escalate Violence? Evidence from Castle Doctrine. At the end of that posting I said,
One thing that is interesting is that they don't seem able to deal with the issue as to whether the increase in deaths is due to an "increased use of lethal force in self-defense situations, or the escalation of violence in otherwise non-lethal situations". I take it this to mean that they can't tell whether more attackers are being killed by would-be victims or if the level of violence is being forced up in general. And I would think that for many people that difference is important. In the first case fewer victims are being killed while in the second more victims are dying.
Now a new NBER working paper claims that the increase in killing is unlikely to be driven entirely by the killings of assailants. The paper is Stand Your Ground Laws and Homicides by Chandler B. McClellan and Erdal Tekin. The abstract reads,
Since 2005, eighteen states have passed legislation that has extended the right to self-defense, with no duty to retreat, to places a person has a legal right to be, and several other states are debating to introduce similar legislation. The controversies surrounding these laws have captured the nation's attention recently. Despite significant implications that they may have on public safety, there has been little empirical investigation of the impact of these laws on crime and victimization. In this paper, we examine how Stand Your Ground laws that extend the right to self-defense to areas outside the home affect homicides using monthly data from the U.S. Vital Statistics. We identify the impact of these laws by exploiting the variation in the effective date of these laws across states. Our results indicate that Stand Your Ground laws are associated with a significant increase in the number of homicides among whites, especially white males. According to our estimates, between 4.39 and 7.44 additional white males are killed each month as a result of these laws. We find no evidence to suggest that these laws increase homicides among blacks. Our results are robust to a number of specifications and unlikely to be driven entirely by the killings of assailants. Taken together, our findings raise serious doubts against the argument that Stand Your Ground laws make America safer.
An interesting question is why there in an increase in killings among whites but not blacks.

1 comment:

JC said...

A fair number of the Whites may have bought guns as a result of the new law, but don't have the culture to know when, and when not to use them.