Target: The United States Department of Justice
Goal: Investigate the various state “stand your ground” laws in order to determine whether they should be rewritten.
During recent years, “stand your ground” self-defense laws have been passed in 23 states. “Stand your ground” laws in the United States, while there are state-variations, give wide new latitudes for those who claim self-defense after injuring somebody.
Under traditional self-defense laws, the defendant must prove that the victim meant them (or others) harm and that they reacted to an imminent threat to their own safety; in addition to proving that they acted under threat of imminent danger to their own safety, the defendant must show that they had no ability to retreat and avoid the conflict. Under “stand your ground” self-defense laws, the accused has no need to avoid conflict and, barring evidence to the contrary, is often presumed to have been acting in self-defense. While “stand your ground” laws were originally passed as protections against innocent people being convicted for defending themselves, their implementation has led to several serious social problems:
- Crime studies have shown that states with “stand your ground” laws suffer from increases in violent crime rates; people believe that they can get away with murder, thus they are more likely to escalate violent situation.
- In states with “stand your ground” laws, the justifiable homicide rates increase as a proportion of the total homicide rates. This increase indicates that either many more people are killing others in self-defense, which is unlikely, or that guilty individuals are utilizing the law to escape consequences for their actions.
- It has been shown that “stand your ground” defenses are far more likely to succeed if the victim was a minority and the shooter was white. This disparity is unacceptable, and indicates that racial biases may play a part in deciding the success of a “stand your ground” defense.
Given the preponderance of the evidence, it appears that “stand your ground” laws are in need of a drastic re-thinking. If recent studies are accurate, these laws actually result in increased murder rates, guilt individuals walking free, and racial bias determining legal outcomes. This petition is directed at the Department of Justice and is intended to convince them to open a full investigation on the implementation and results of state “stand your ground” laws.
Dear United States Department of Justice,
In recent years, 23 state legislatures have passed “stand your ground” self-defense laws; these laws widen the legal justifications of self-defense, as well as make it far easier for individuals to sustain self-defense justifications in all but the most egregious cases. Unfortunately, regardless of the good intentions by state lawmakers when they crafted these laws, the results of these laws have been very controversial.
Crime statistics show that murder rates increase upon the inception of “stand your ground” laws; this demonstrates a likelihood that some people are using the new laws to escape murder charges. In addition to eliciting increased murder rates, the racial disparity surrounding successful “stand your ground” defenses suggests that the law is not being applied equitably across all races.
This letter is sent to you by concerned citizens, who are very worried about the implementation of state “stand your ground” laws. Numerous studies have thrown doubt upon the validity and fairness in implementation of state “stand your ground” laws. In the face of these studies, we implore you to begin your own, in-depth investigation of the various state “stand your ground” laws.
[Your Name Here]