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Hullabaloo


Sunday, February 16, 2014

 
Stand Your Ground is simply an invitation to more killing, not less crime

by David Atkins

Since first-degree murder is apparently legal in Florida as long as the victims are black, it's important to look at the overall impact of the ALEC-funded evil Stand Your Ground laws. The upshot is: more death, more shooting, huge racial disparities in who is killed, and no decrease in crime. Not only do they allow racist killers to get away with murder, they don't provide even the least bit of deterrent to crime. In fact, it's likely quite the opposite:

For any given case, these questions are impossible to answer, and you can make arguments either way. But it is possible to say something more definitive about whether these laws have led to a greater number of total homicides. That is the question my coauthor Cheng Cheng and I addressed in our recent study in the Journal of Human Resources. We asked what happened to homicide rates in states that passed these laws between 2000 and 2010, compared to other states over the same time period. We found that homicide rates in states with a version of the Stand Your Ground law increased by an average of 8 percent over states without it — which translates to roughly 600 additional homicides per year. These homicides are classified by police as criminal homicides, not as justifiable homicides.

It is fitting that much of this debate has centered on Florida, which enacted its law in October of 2005. Florida provides a case study for this more general pattern. Homicide rates in Florida increased by 8 percent from the period prior to passing the law (2000-04) to the period after the law (2006-10).By comparison, national homicide rates fell by 6 percent over the same time period. This is a crude example, but it illustrates the more general pattern that exists in the homicide data published by the FBI.

The critical question for our research is whether this relative increase in homicide rates was caused by these laws. Several factors lead us to believe that laws are in fact responsible. First, the relative increase in homicide rates occurred in adopting states only after the laws were passed, not before. Moreover, there is no history of homicide rates in adopting states (like Florida) increasing relative to other states. In fact, the post-law increase in homicide rates in states like Florida was larger than any relative increase observed in the last 40 years. Put differently, there is no evidence that states like Florida just generally experience increases in homicide rates relative to other states, even when they don’t pass these laws.

We also find no evidence that the increase is due to other factors we observe, such as demographics, policing, economic conditions, and welfare spending. Our results remain the same when we control for these factors. Along similar lines, if some other factor were driving the increase in homicides, we’d expect to see similar increases in other crimes like larceny, motor vehicle theft and burglary. We do not. We find that the magnitude of the increase in homicide rates is sufficiently large that it is unlikely to be explained by chance.

In fact, there is substantial empirical evidence that these laws led to more deadly confrontations. Making it easier to kill people does result in more people getting killed.
I know that one isn't supposed to use hyperbole, and that using the strongest moral language to describe politicians and legislation is deeply frowned upon (unless you belong to the Tea Party right and the subject is the deficit or Benghazi, in which case it's culturally forgiven.)

But only the strongest possible aspersions can begin to describe laws funded by plutocrats whose only purpose is to allow racist killers to walk free, and whose ultimate impact is to allow more murders, including of children.

If one cannot condemn such a thing in the strongest possible moral terms an even an expletive or two, when would such language be appropriate?


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