Study Shows What Happens When You Legalize Vigilante ‘Self-Defense’

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Florida’s controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, which helped George Zimmerman to get away with Trayvon Martin’s murder, could be counter-productive.

George Zimmerman

One of Florida's most controversial laws may be linked to a significant increase in homicides.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) led by the University of Oxford, found the "Stand Your Ground" law — which allows people to use force, even deadly force in case of self-defense — may have contributed to a “24 percent rise in monthly homicide from 2005 to 2014 and 31.6 percent increase in firearms-related homicide in the Sunshine State.”

This is troubling, more so because the nation's overall gun death rate has declined 31% since 1993.

The Stand Your Ground law was implemented in 2005, however, it attracted national attention in 2012, when George Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watchman, shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman was acquitted, thanks to, for the most part, the Stand Your Ground law despite the fact that Martin was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

Zimmerman’s acquittal set off a heated debate and protests over the controversial law, which according to critics, legalizes vigilante justice — sadly, to no avail.

However, the JAMA research provides a fresh insight into how the Stand Your Ground law could be counterproductive to personal security.

“These laws are reducing the expected penalties associated with using lethal force in self-defense. In the aggregate, the data suggests more people are getting killed as a result of these laws,” commented Mark Hoekstra, a professor of economics at Texas A&M University, who authored a similar study in 2013 that linked Florida’s Stand Your Ground to increase in homicide.

"We just hope this evidence can be used to form a discussion on the pros and cons of these kinds of laws," Antonio Gasparrini, an associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a co-author of the study, told NBC News.

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