Back in 2005, a little state named Florida adopted a policy called “Stand Your Ground,” effectively an addendum to the long-running “Castle Doctrine.” The Castle Doctrine got its name from the notion that “a man’s home is his castle,” and that the castle owner of said military fortification isn’t obligated to retreat to his keep in the event of attack. SYG expanded on that, effectively allowing a man’s “castle” to be anywhere he happened to be standing.
Once open season had been declared in Florida, a co-op of GOP politicians and corporations — including Koch Industries, Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, Microsoft, and tobacco manufacturer Altria among many others — wrote a bill that extended SYG to more than 30 other states.
ALEC, as this assembly’s called, was also the author behind today’s voter ID laws, Arizona’s immigration laws, “three strikes” sentencing laws, laws stripping the licenses from companies for participating in the ACA exchange, and laws classifying environmental and animal rights activists as “terrorists,” and any number of industry and Wall Street deregulation laws.
So, a pretty caring group, as a whole. Men of the people, ALEC.
At the time, ALEC’s justification for spreading Florida’s SYG laws nationwide was that since SYG’s inception, crime had dropped in the state. What they failed to mention, however, was that A) Crime had already dropped by 12 percent in the last ten years, like the rest of the nation, and B) the crime that dropped was property crime. Murder and violent crime, however, quickly came to replace property crime in Florida’s statistics.
Almost overnight, Florida became one of America’s main murder capitols, and a byword for racially motivated crime against minorities by scared white people — but, hey, at least rich folks’ stuff was safe. Maybe that was the idea. And if some of the darker peasants had to die for it, then so be it.
Almost a decade after ALEC’s pushing of SYG laws nationwide, the American Bar Association Task Force has released a 62-page preliminary report revealing some disturbing numbers. Florida, it seems, now has some competition in the mayhem-for-money scheme.
The Bar report asserts in part that the previous laws regarding self-defense, including the Castle Doctrine, were perfectly adequate, and that SYG laws were “a solution in search of a problem.” They mentioned the following:
- A Solution in Search of a Problem: “Several practitioners testified that proponents of Stand Your Ground laws could point to no examples of cases wherein traditional self-defense law would not have protected a law-abiding individual operating in justified self-defense.”
- A Defense Used by Repeat Criminal Offenders: About 60 percent of SYG defenses are raised by people with one or more violent criminal convictions in their past.
- They Have No Deterrent Effect on Crime: “Several empirical studies surveyed found that Stand Your Ground law had no deterrent effect on
crime, specifically burglary, robbery, and aggravated assault.”
- They Result in Increased Homicide Rates: ” Yet, other studies indicated an increase in homicides in states with Stand Your Ground laws. Accordingly, researchers are concerned that increases in justified homicides following the enactment of Stand Your Ground laws favors amendment or repeal of these new laws and warrants a comprehensive national study.”
- It encourages Vigilantism: “One of the critical problems with the
Stand Your Ground law is that before, that person would have had the impetus to leave, to go away. . . . But the Stand Your Ground laws allow people to stand, shoot, and murder with no consequences.”
- It’s a ‘License to Kill’: “Many labeled it as “a license to kill.” Others raised concerns that, as social framework, Stand Your Ground laws do not place enough value on human life and further that they encourage non-violent conflict resolution instead of encouraging the use deadly force to resolve
- It Leads to Irrational Targeting of Minorities: “Particularly relevant to the analysis of Stand Your Ground laws is the issue of implicit bias and
cultural misperceptions of racial minorities as “more violent” or “more aggressive,” even when exhibiting the same behaviors as Caucasians. Legal scholars have applied implicit bias research regarding cross-cultural fear and perception to the reasonableness prong of the non-Stand Your Ground self-defense statutes and opined that race and racial stereotypes are important public policy considerations when enacting, amending or repealing laws that eliminate one’s “duty to retreat,” like Stand Your Ground statutes.”
- The Justice System Favors Whites Who Use it as a Defense: ” In Stand Your Ground states, the Urban Institute’s study indicated that racial disparities exist in the application of Stand Your Ground laws, such that a white shooter that kills a black victim is 350% more likely to be found to be justified, than if the same white shooter killed a white victim. This study shows that the racial disparities that already exist in justified homicides in all states is heightened in Stand Your Ground states.”
- Scared White People Shoot Blacks: In one study, “simply exposing a person to a black face facilitated that person’s ability to see weapons, regardless of the person’s prejudice level.” A separate study concluded that “people were quicker to shoot black men with guns than white men with guns, and if there existed any doubt, would shoot a black person with no gun over a white man with no gun.”
- “The application of Stand Your Ground laws is unpredictable, uneven, and results in racial disparities.”
The report goes on to say that advocates of SYG laws say they’re safer with a gun, and that carrying one has a deterrent effect on crime. The Bar report found differently:
“Yet, advocates of Stand Your Ground laws contend that firearm possession has deterred crime in the United States. However, as Professor David Hemenway, Professor of Health Policy at the Harvard School of Public Health at Harvard University, observed, “No credible evidence exists for a general deterrent effect of firearms.”
Gun use in self-defense is no more likely to reduce the chance of being injured during a crime than various other forms of protective action. The recent empirical research relating to homicide rates in Stand Your Ground states addressed earlier in this Report fully supports Professor Hemenway’s supposition. Even Dr. Gary Kleck, a noted pro-gun researcher and staunch advocate for Second Amendment rights concluded:
“There is little to no need for a gun for self-protection for most Americans, because there’s so little risk of crime. People don’t believe it, but it’s true. You just can’t convince most Americans they’re not at serious risk.”
Or, to summarize: to people with nail guns, the world is full of fence posts.
The task force co-chair and co-author of the report summed up his findings with this:
“We’ve heard nothing good about Stand Your Ground Laws. In fact, the more you look at them, the more problems you find. It’s our hope that the ABA as a whole will take a position against these laws.”
It’s almost as though America has become a battleground…a place where the threat of death is purposefully said to be ever-imminent…a place where the good guys where white (skin) and the bad guys wear black. But is that an exaggeration? Are SYG laws driving America that much closer to becoming a true warzone? Law professor Christopher Jenks said:
“It is troubling that under Stand Your Ground, there are less restrictions imposed on U.S. service members using deadly force when they return to the United States than when they are deployed in a combat environment.”
So, in conclusion, we have to ask ourselves…why? Why would Koch industries, Rupert Murdoch, Microsoft, all of the telecomm and cable companies, defense contractors, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies…WHY would they be so interested in turning America into a warzone; a place ripe with the daily promise that “your government can’t protect you?” To what end?
Maybe it’s because in a warzone, people who don’t feel protected by their government will, in that vacuum of security, turn elsewhere for governance and protection…
To the warlords themselves.
h/t: Al Jazeera America