Jacob Sullum
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Even if the Trayvon Martin case does not really illustrate the shortcomings of Florida's law, it is possible that eliminating the duty to retreat in public places, combined with reinforcing the "castle doctrine" (which applies to home invasions) and extending it to vehicles, has encouraged avoidable escalations of violence. The law's opponents note that the annual number of justifiable homicides in Florida (excluding police shootings) nearly tripled after the law was passed in 2005, from an average of 12 between 2000 and 2004 to an average of 35 between 2006 and 2010.

Still, you would expect to see an increase in homicides deemed to be justified even if the law were working exactly as intended. The crucial question in assessing the law's impact, which the task force appointed last week by Gov. Rick Scott presumably will ask, is whether these homicides should be deemed justified.

In the meantime, it is worth noting that Florida's violent crime rate, which fell by 12 percent in the five years before the "stand your ground" law was enacted, fell by 23 percent in the five years afterward. Since 1987, when Florida adopted a nondiscretionary carry permit law that the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence blames for "year after year of carnage," the state's violent crime rate has been cut nearly in half.

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Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
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