With the “Stand Your Ground” laws in several states being at the forefront of the discussion of personal protection, the amount of justifiable homicides that occur are also up for discussion. Is it really a justifiable homicide if someone feels threatened for any reason? If a crime has been committed and a suspect is shot in the back by a victim, is that still justifiable?
In the 22 states that have adopted Stand Your Ground laws, justifiable homicide rates have risen by 53% between 2005-2007.
To compare those figures with the other 38 states, those communities that don’t have the Stand Your Ground laws saw a 5% drop, on average in the rates of justifiable homicide. According to an FBI crime report in 2011, there were 260 total justifiable homicides that occurred across the country that did not involve police. Officers were involved in 393 justifiable homicides during the same year.
- 99.2% of the instances of justifiable homicide that involved law enforcement officials involved firearms.
- 77.3% of the justifiable homicides that occurred in the general population also involved the use of firearms.
- The use of firearms in all justifiable homicide cases has never fallen below 77% since 2007, while the rate for police officers has never fallen below 98.7%.
- In incidents of murder for which the relationships of murder victims and offenders were known, 55.9 percent were killed by someone they knew.
Here is the real question that needs to be asked: if there wasn’t such easy access to firearms, would the statistics of justifiable homicide be the same? Would people use other weapons to replicate the successes that firearms could cause… or would that extra moment where someone is required to reach for a different weapon be enough to change that person’s mind? In the United States, that question won’t likely be answered, but there is no denying the fact that firearms are by far the preferred weapon of choice for self-protection.
What is Used Most Often in Justifiable Homicide?
- Handguns make up the most often used weapon in the commission of a justifiable homicide by a wide margin, having been a part of over 75% of the total that involve firearms.
- In 2011, only 4% of justifiable homicides were committed using a personal weapon that did not involve a knife, cutting instrument, or firearm.
- Several states do not report the data to the FBI, who is the primary publisher of justifiable homicide statistics. Many of these states also have Stand Your Ground laws.
- Justifiable homicide rates are rather low when compared to other statistics that are tracked which relate to the death of an individual.
- 77.4% of the homicides that were tracked in 2010 were of men.
- 50.4% of total homicides were African-Americans.
- Over 90% of the offenders who commit a homicide in the United States are also men.
Justifiable homicide, which is defined as the killing of a person who is in the act of committing a felony, may be celebrated by some, but the laws have holes in them. In some states, for example, any felony may result in the use of lethal force if someone’s life is threatened. The reality is that there are over 3,500 federal crimes that can be committed and many people have committed a felony without even realizing it. Under justifiable homicide laws regarding the commission of a felony, it becomes legal to stop someone with lethal force from messing with a friend’s Facebook page. It’s even a felony to have unauthorized access to an electrical current.
Do SYG Laws Really Have an Effect on Justifiable Homicide Rates?
- In Florida, justifiable homicide rates have increased by 200% since the passing of their Stand Your Ground laws.
- Racial disparities also affect the statistics. For example, an older black man who shoots a younger white man has just an 8% chance of having that action ruled as justifiable.
- An older white man who shoots a younger black man has a 49% of having that action ruled as justifiable.
- The overall rates of justifiable homicides have remained rather constant at the national level over the past decade.
- Only 2.6% of all total homicides are ruled as being justifiable.
- Same race homicides have the highest frequency of being ruled as justifiable, with white on white homicides having the highest rate of justification.
- 59.1% of multiple homicides occurring at the same location have been ruled as justifiable since 2005.
Some have described Stand Your Ground laws as a means of allowing people to have the will to kill. Although cases such as Trayvon Martin’s will always resound through history and serve as an example of issues with the law, there are also a number of defendants who claim SYG status and are convicted despite what they may have been feeling at the time. It is true that justifiable homicides are higher in states with SYG laws, but they may also be reflective of a greater willingness by police to rule an event as justifiable. What hasn’t changed, however, is that there are 33% more police-caused justifiable homicides than those caused by private citizens year after year.
A Few Final Facts…
- The South Atlantic states experienced the greatest amount of justifiable homicides in the United States.
- The smallest regional location of justifiable homicides were New Englands, experiencing just 2.31% of the total rate.
- The average age for a victim was just under 33 years of age, while the average age of the perpetrator was just under 31 years of age.
- One quarter of homicide victims year after year are women.
- The greatest disparity in all justifiable homicide rates is white on black crime, which has over 11% of the homicide cases ruled as justified, with almost 17% of the total cases from 2005-2010 ruled justifiable in SYG states.
The facts don’t lie. More white on black crime is ruled as justifiable as a percentage, even though more white on white crime occurs every year with a higher percentage of justification. Does this indicate a racial preference? Is it indicative of having more blacks trying to commit felonies against whites? That is something that each person will need to decide on their own.
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