‘Castle Doctrine’ Means More Killings, Study Says
By Era Sundar
States that embrace the “castle doctrine” see a 7 to 9 percent increase in overall homicides each year compared with their non-castle counterparts, according to a new study out of Texas A&M.
The castle doctrine allows people to defend themselves in their homes. In some cases it can be used to justify killing an intruder. Texas A&M professor and economist Mark Hoekstra says homicides have increased in states that have enacted the castle doctrine. His findings were published (PDF) this month in a study he co-wrote.
Hoekstra explains it as a matter of incentives. Since the law lowers the cost of using deadly force, we can expect to see more of it. At the same time, the law increases the downside for committing crimes. So we should see less of those. But Hoekstra says that hasn’t happened.
“I would characterize the evidence as, at best, a suggestive increase in justifiable homicide,” Hoekstra said. “And on the other hand there’s no evidence that there are fewer robberies, aggravated assaults or burglaries as a result of these laws.”
While some people consider the law ineffective, others fear it’s being stretched to cover situations that it wasn’t intended to justify.
“It emboldens people to take justice into their own hands, whereas prior to that we all believe that the protection came from the police,” said state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.
Coleman says the original castle doctrine is not the problem. People should be able to defend themselves in their homes. He takes issue with the “stand your ground” amendments to the law that have been adopted by nearly half of U.S. states, including Texas. He says those provisions introduce too much ambiguity.
But Larry Arnold of the Texas Concealed Handgun Association says the law should not be considered bad just because some people misuse it or take it too far.
“If you are ticketed for speeding you could claim that you weren’t speeding,” Arnold said. “That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the speeding law.”
The controversy over the law was highlighted last week when a Houston jury convicted Raul Rodriguez of murdering his neighbor during a fight over loud music. The jury rejected Rodriguez’s assertion that he was within his rights, although he is on tape saying “my life is in danger now.”
The Texas version of the castle doctrine allows people to defend themselves in their homes, workplaces and vehicles. Rodriguez was standing in his neighbor’s driveway.