HB 135 which proposes the repeal of the Stand Your Ground law will soon be coming to a vote before the full State Senate. This bill previously passed the State House, and if also approved by the State Senate, will be signed into law by Democratic governor Maggie Hassan.
The Case for Repeal of the Stand Your Ground law
For 34 years prior to the adoption of Stand Your Ground in 2011, New Hampshire operated without problems under the Castle Doctrine. The Castle Doctrine allowed homeowners to defend their homes and property with deadly force. Outside the home, citizens were allowed to use deadly force if they had used every reasonable means to avoid a perilous situation and had shot only as a last resort.
The Stand Your Ground law was introduced to solve a problem that did not exist. The Castle Doctrine was functioning in a perfectly satisfactory manner. Stand Your Ground does not improve public safety, it actually makes life more dangerous. As we saw in the Trayvon Martin case, this law virtually legalizes murder. Suppose two people argue, and one shoots and kills the other. If there are no witnesses, the shooter can be acquitted simply by claiming that he felt threatened. The dead man is in no position to contradict that claim. In addition, according to the Stand Your Ground law, if the gunman accidentally shoots a bystander, the victim cannot sue the shooter if he survives. If the victim doesn’t survive, the remaining family members cannot sue either.
Mark Hoekstra, an economist with Texas A&M University, studied the effect of Stand Your Ground laws in the various states. According to NPR (1/2/13), Hoekstra said, “Our study finds that homicides go up by 7 to 9 percent in states that pass the laws, relative to states that didn’t pass the laws over the same time period . . .We find that there are 500 to 700 more homicides per year across the 23 states as a result of the laws.”
As to whether Stand Your Ground laws reduce crime by creating a deterrent for criminals, Hoekstra says, “we find no evidence of any deterrent effect over the same time period.”
NPR adds, “In a separate analysis of death certificates before and after stand your ground laws were passed in different states, economists at Georgia State University also found that states that passed the laws ended up with a higher homicide rate.”
The Prospects for Repeal (HB 135) of the Stand Your Ground law.
Despite the weight of logic and evidence supporting HB 135, the prospects for repealing Stand Your Ground are dim. Why is that? Anywhere from 11 to all 13 of the Republican state senators will vote against repeal of Stand Your Ground. In addition, several Democratic state senators, Bette Lasky, Andrew Hosmer, and Jeff Woodburn, have indicated that they will defect from the Democratic stand for repeal of Stand Your Ground. Lasky voted against repeal when the bill came to the Judiciary Committee for a vote. Hosmer and Woodburn have made public statements that they will not vote to repeal Stand Your Ground.
As a result the numbers are not there to repeal (HB 135) Stand Your Ground. So why should any Democratic senator vote to repeal a bill that seems destined for defeat? Because a vote against repeal not only defeats HB 135, it is a public declaration that this senator agrees with the premises underlying the Stand Your Ground law. That person adds his or her voice to a chorus which is moving us toward a more violent America.