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Shoot First laws, also known as Stand Your Ground laws, are dangerous. How do they encourage violence?

Shoot First laws—also known as Stand Your Ground legislation—are deadly, reckless, and extreme. They give people a license to kill, allowing them to shoot first and ask questions later, then claim self-defense. People can use deadly force as a first option rather than the last. These laws apply even if the person who started the confrontation can safely walk away.

Why are Shoot First laws dangerous?

Shoot First laws change the nature of gun violence in a state. These laws encourage escalations of violence. Research shows that Shoot First laws make the United States’ gun violence crisis worse and do nothing to deter crime.

700

Shoot first laws are associated with increases in homicide rates resulting in 700 additional homicides each year.

Michelle Degli Esposti et al., “Analysis of ‘Stand Your Ground’ Self-Defense Laws and Statewide Rates of Homicides and Firearm Homicides,” JAMA Network Open 5, no. 2 (February 21, 2022): e220077, https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.0077.

Last updated: 1.8.2021

57%

In 57 percent of Florida Shoot First cases, the person who claimed Shoot First could have safely retreated to avoid the confrontation.

Chris Davis, “Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law,” Tampa Bay Times, June 3, 2012, https://bit.ly/3c1KZub.

5x

In Shoot First states, homicides in which white shooters kill Black victims are deemed justifiable five times more frequently than when the situation is reversed.

Everytown analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Report, 2014 to 2018.

Which states have Shoot First laws?

29 states currently have some version of these laws on the books. Most of the states with Stand Your Ground laws, including Georgia’s law that passed in 2006, were enacted as a result of a concerted effort by the NRA. The gun lobby isn’t just against gun safety laws—they’re trying to pass bills that encourage violence.

These states have rejected Shoot First laws.

21 states have rejected this policy

AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

No Stand Your Ground Law

Alabama has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Alaska has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Arizona has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Arkansas has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

California has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Colorado has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Connecticut has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Delaware has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Florida has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Georgia has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Hawaii has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Idaho has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Illinois has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Indiana has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Iowa has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Kansas has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Kentucky has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Louisiana has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Maine has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Maryland has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Massachusetts has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Michigan has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Minnesota has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Mississippi has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Missouri has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Montana has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Nebraska has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Nevada has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

New Hampshire has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

New Jersey has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

New Mexico has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

New York has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

North Carolina has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

North Dakota has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Ohio has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Oklahoma has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Oregon has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Pennsylvania has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Rhode Island has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

South Carolina has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

South Dakota has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Tennessee has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Texas has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Utah has not rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Vermont has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Virginia has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Washington has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

West Virginia has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Wisconsin has rejected this policy

No Stand Your Ground Law

Wyoming has not rejected this policy

How do Shoot First laws affect Black people and communities of color?

Shoot First laws put Black people and people of color at further risk of hate-fueled violence. Shooters feel empowered to instigate violence or act on unjustified fear and then claim self-defense.

Ahmaud Arbery was out for a run when he was killed in 2020 in Georgia. He didn’t have a gun and the shooters’ lives were not at risk, but they felt empowered to shoot to kill and then claim self defense.

Trayvon Martin was out for a walk in his father’s neighborhood in 2012 when a man followed him, then shot and killed him in Florida. The shooter claimed self-defense and was found not guilty of murder even though he followed and approached Trayvon who was unarmed. Trayvon was minding his own business, simply out for a walk while Black.

Also in 2012, Representative Lucy McBath’s 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed by a man in a Florida gas station parking lot over a supposed dispute over loud music. Jordan wasn’t armed, he was just hanging out with friends. The man claimed a Stand Your Ground defense.

How are these laws different from traditional self-defense laws?

All 50 states have self-defense laws that give us the right to protect ourselves and our families. Traditional self-defense laws are effective—they give us the right to protect ourselves and our families, including the use of deadly force if necessary. They also value life—ensuring that deadly force remains a last resort, rather than a first. These laws only require that if a person can clearly and safely walk away, they do so. The issue is whether or not someone should be able to seek out a dangerous situation and also claim self-defense.

Stand Your Ground or Shoot First laws go much further, changing the nature of self-defense laws. These laws allow people to shoot to kill in public even when they can safely walk away from the danger. They have created a culture of violence. This allows armed extremists to shoot anyone they fear or suspect, call themselves “vigilantes,” and claim self defense. This leads to more senseless deaths.

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