In the United States, the common law principle known as the “castle doctrine” allows individuals to use deadly force, if reasonable, to protect themselves from home intruders. Variations of the castle doctrine are the law of the land in all but a handful of states. But in recent years, a number of states have expanded on the principle, allowing individuals to use deadly force in public spaces under certain circumstances, even if they have the option to safely retreat. These statutes are commonly known as “stand your ground” or “shoot first” laws.
Unlike the castle doctrine, which is deeply rooted in historical precedent, stand your ground laws represent a meaningful departure from American legal tradition. According to gun control advocacy group Giffords Law Center, stand your ground laws increase the likelihood of avoidable violence and death — especially if firearms are involved, which, in states with these laws and weak gun control regulations, they often are.
One study in Florida found that firearm homicides rose by 32% after the state became one of the first to enact stand your ground laws in 2005. Additionally, in 79% of stand your ground cases in Florida, violent confrontations were avoidable, and in 68% of cases, the individual killed was not armed. Today, Florida is among the majority of states that have passed stand your ground policies. (Here is a look at the most pro-gun lawmakers in the U.S. Senate.)
Using data from Gifford’s Law Center, 24/7 Wall St. identified each of the 30 states with stand your ground laws. Though policy details can vary slightly by jurisdiction, in each state on this list, citizens are generally not obligated to retreat, even if they can safely do so, if they or others are threatened with the possibility of death or serious bodily harm in a public place, and are legally protected to use force to prevent the commission of a forcible felony, even with a firearm.
In the vast majority of states with stand your ground laws on the books, residents are allowed to carry firearms in public places. And in states without a legal duty to retreat from potentially dangerous public confrontations, or meaningful restrictions on firearms in public, the risk of avoidable violence and homicide increases substantially.
According to 2021 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine of the 10 states with the highest firearm mortality rates are on this list. And, perhaps not surprisingly, each of them does little to restrict firearms in public places. (Here is a look at the law for carrying firearms in public in every state.)
Click here to see the states with stand-your-ground laws.
Click here to see our detailed methodology.
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