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Shoot First, Also Known As Stand Your Ground, Laws Can Embolden Extremists, Often Used in Hate Motivated Attacks, Dangerous Armed Vigilantism

February 22, 2022

New Research from The Journal of the American Medical Association Shows that Shoot First Laws Have Resulted in 700 Additional Gun Deaths Every Year

This week marks two years since the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and 10 years since the murder of Trayvon Martin. Both shootings illuminated the deadly impacts of Shoot First laws, also known by gun lobby allies as Stand Your Ground laws. Since their deaths, states across the country have only continued to push dangerous Shoot First laws and now 29 states have some version of these laws that make murder legal – letting people use deadly force as the first option rather than the last, even when they can clearly and safely walk away. These laws not only disproportionately impact Black and Latinx people in our country, but can also be used to embolden extremists and armed vigilantism. 

New research from The Journal of the American Medical Association shows Shoot First laws have resulted in 700 additional gun deaths every year and homicides in which white shooters kill Black victims are deemed justifiable five times more frequently than when the situation is reversed in Shoot First states. Analysis from Everytown Support Fund found that homicides with a white perpetrator and a Black victim are far more likely to be ruled justified than cases with a Black perpetrator and a white victim. 

These laws are a part of the gun lobby’s “guns everywhere,” “shoot first” culture that has emboldened armed extremists across the country in recent years, and encouraged the practice of open carry at demonstrations. It is what emboldened Kyle Rittenhouse to openly carry an AR-15 style rifle at a protest for racial justice, shoot and kill two people, and then claim and get off on self-defense. Acquittals in situations like Rittenhouse’s case send the message that there are no consequences for shooting someone if the shooter claims they felt threatened. In fact, after the acquittal, the gun lobby and far-right extremists celebrated the decision, even calling Rittenhouse a “warrior for gun owners.”

Shoot First laws are part of the gun lobby’s decades-long narrative that we should live in a fear-based society, and that anyone should have the right to carry and use a gun anywhere, anytime, with no questions asked. But taking a life should always be a last resort—not the first. 

On Thursday, February 24 at 10:30AM, Everytown will be holding a press conference to announce a new nationwide task force with state legislators from across the country who will work to combat Shoot First laws.
More information on Shoot First laws is available here. If you are interested in learning more about Everytown’s work to combat Shoot First laws and armed extremism, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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