Stand Your Ground Laws, Homicides, and Injuries

Chandler B. McClellan, Erdal Tekin

NBER Working Paper No. 18187
Issued in June 2012
NBER Program(s):   HE   LE

The controversies surrounding gun control policies have recently moved to the forefront of public's attention in the United States and elsewhere. Since 2005, eighteen states in the United States have passed laws extending the right to self-defense with no duty to retreat to any place a person has a legal right to be, and several additional states are debating the adoption of similar legislation. Despite the implications that these laws may have for public safety, there has been little empirical investigation of their impact on crime and victimization. In this paper, we use monthly data from the U.S. Vital Statistics to examine how Stand Your Ground laws affect homicides and firearm injuries. We identify the impact of these laws by exploiting variation in the effective date of these laws across states over time. 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 28 and 33 additional white males are killed each month as a result of these laws. We find no consistent evidence to suggest that these laws increase homicides among blacks. Auxiliary analysis using data from the Supplemental Homicide Reports indicates that our results are not driven by the killings of assailants. We also find that the stand your ground laws are not related to non-homicide deaths, which should not respond to gun laws. Finally, we analyze data from the Health Care Utilization Project to show that these laws are also associated with a significant increase in emergency room visits and hospital discharges related to firearm inflicted injuries. Taken together, these findings raise serious doubts against the argument that Stand Your Ground laws make public safer.

download in pdf format
   (220 K)

email paper

The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

This paper is available as PDF (220 K) or via email.

This paper was revised on October 24, 2012

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18187

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Cheng and Hoekstra w18134 Does Strengthening Self-Defense Law Deter Crime or Escalate Violence? Evidence from Castle Doctrine
Aneja, Donohue, and Zhang w18294 The Impact of Right to Carry Laws and the NRC Report: The Latest Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy
Eichengreen, Park, and Shin w18673 Growth Slowdowns Redux: New Evidence on the Middle-Income Trap
Fang, Eggleston, Rizzo, Rozelle, and Zeckhauser w18189 The Returns to Education in China: Evidence from the 1986 Compulsory Education Law
Hausman Valuation of New Goods under Perfect and Imperfect Competition
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us