Chanting Points Memo: If “Alliance For A Better Minnesota” Couldn’t Lie, They’d Be Mute

Last night, the paid flaks at “Alliance for a Better Minnesota” – the astroturf PR group financed by the Dayton family, Mark Dayton’s ex-wife Alita Messinger, a bunch of their liberal plutocrat friends, and the unions that own Mark Dayton, put out a tweet:

Good thing Gov. Dayton vetoed the law: Study says ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws increase homicides   #mnleg  #stribpol

Now, as always – when ABM says, writes or posts anything, one is best to do…


I don’t wanna keep seeing the same hands, here.  What does one do?

Distrust, then verify.  Then, almost inevitably, distrust some more.

So let’s look at the study and, as ABM would have the ill-informed voter believe, this wave of fresh murder begat by “Stand Your Ground”.  The study was cited in a WSJ Law Blog post:

In April, more than a month after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, we looked the incidence of justifiable homicides in states with “stand your ground” or “castle doctrine” laws like Florida’s.

In general, such laws grant people more leeway to use lethal force on an attacker. More than 20 were passed after Florida’s in 2005. They typically do at least one of the following:

• Remove a person’s duty to retreat in places outside the home

• Add the presumption that the person who killed in self defense had a reasonable fear of death or harm  [subject, in ever case I’m aware of, to a hearing establishing that that fear was reasonable]

• Grant people who killed in self-defense immunity from civil lawsuits [provided, of course, they are found to have acted in legal self-defense; currently, a woman killing a stalking rapist is only as safe from being sued back to the stone-age by her rapist’s family as the least bobble headed jury that can be empaneled]

So let’s look at the study’s conclusions (and I’ll add emphasis):

Justifiable homicides nearly doubled from 2000 to 2010, according to the most recent data available, when 326 were reported. The data, provided by federal and state law enforcement agencies, showed a sharp increase in justifiable homicides occurred after 2005, when Florida and 16 other states passed the laws.

While the overall homicide rates in those states stayed relatively flat, the average number of justifiable cases per year increased by more than 50% in the decade’s latter half.

Now, let’s put that number into two bits of context.

First;  the “doubling” – 160 or so killings up to 320 and change – amounts to less than 1% of the people killed in unjustifiable homicides every year.

And every single one of them involves someone who was ruled to have had a legitimate fear of being killed or maimed, killing an attacker first.

These “homicides”, every one of them, occurred in lieu of a rape, murder, kidnapping or aggravated assault.  In every case, the alternative to those 320-odd justified homicides would have been an innocent person dead; a woman raped; a child kidnapped, a person beaten into a vegetative state.

The study – and ABM – would have you think that’s a bad thing.  Or at least have you not think about it very hard.

Speaking of the study – what about it?

The answer, [Texas A&M Professors Mark Hoekstra and Cheng Cheng] conclude, is [that “Stand Your Ground” does not deter crime]. In fact, the evidence suggests the laws have led to an increase in homicides.

From the study:

Results indicate that the prospect of facing additional self-defense does not deter crime.  Specifically, we find no evidence of deterrence effects on burglary, robbery, or aggravated assault.  Moreover, our estimates are sufficiently precise as to rule out meaningful deterrence effects.

The blog post doesn’t go into details about the study – but this paragraph is nonsense on several levels.

  • So was the study “sufficiently precise” to account for other factors in changing murder rates?
  • Did it account for the deterrent effect that John Lott proved that the concealed carry laws that usually accompany “Stand Your Ground” provide?  Because if those laws are already deterring violent crime, there’s a smaller pool of violent crimes to deter.  Right?

Which leads them to concludes…:

In contrast, we find significant evidence that the laws increase homicides.

But what kind of “homicides?”

Suggestive but inconclusive evidence indicates that castle doctrine laws increase the narrowly defined category of justifiable homicides by private citizens by 17 to 50 percent, which translates into as many as 50 additional justifiable homicides per year nationally due to castle doctrine.

But if they’re justifiable – a response to a lethal threat – then why is this a problem?

Is the death of a rapist the same as the death of his victim?

More significantly, we find the laws increase murder and manslaughter by a statistically significant 7 to 9 percent, which translates into an additional 500 to 700 homicides per year nationally across the states that adopted castle doctrine.

And there, the researchers find causation in a correlation.

Which came first – the rise in violent crime, or the rise in killings in self-defense?

Thus, by lowering the expected costs associated with using lethal force, castle doctrine laws induce more of it.

This is patent nonsense.

The study seems to make several key errors of logic:

  • Considering “justifiable homicides” a bad thing. And they are, in a very real way; they’re the second-worst possible outcome of a lethal-force situation. But giving the same moral weight to the death of someone who was killed for providing a deliberate and grave threat to another person, who responded by shooting?  That’s madness.
  • Not providing full context for the numbers – the researchers ascribe a hike in all homicides to the “lowered cost” of self-defense.  But we don’t know which murders are attributable to which motive.  Also, we don’t know how many of the un-justifiable homicides were justifiable, but hung up on one technicality or another in court (see George Zimmerman).
Back to the study:


This increase in homicides could be due either to the increased use of lethal force in self-defense situations, or to the escalation of violence in otherwise non-lethal conflicts. We suspect that self-defense situations are unlikely to explain all of the increase, as we also find that murder alone is increased by a statistically significant 6 to 11 percent.

I find that number intensely suspect, and will be looking into it.  My sniff-sensor tells me that number is BS – murder rates in general are dropping, nationwide, and given the number of states with stand your ground laws, it seems unlikely that there’s any link.

As the authors note, the increase in homicides may not be viewed by everyone as “unambiguously bad.” It could be driven by individuals protecting themselves from imminent harm by using lethal force. But it could also be driven by an escalation in violence that, absent the “castle doctrine,” wouldn’t have ended in serious injury for either party, they say.

Or it could – no, it would  – be substituting deaths of criminals for deaths of the innocent.

8 thoughts on “Chanting Points Memo: If “Alliance For A Better Minnesota” Couldn’t Lie, They’d Be Mute

  1. May I request the Penigma’s Chihuahua post her homework assignment before commenting on this post?

  2. Loren steals my point, and I’m reminded of the “Things you need to believe to stand for gun control”, one among them being “A woman, raped and murdered, is morally superior to that same woman standing over the dead body over her would-be rapist with a smoking pistol.”

    Yes, I am perplexed at how many think it a bad thing that thugs are being justifiably removed from the gene pool. And how removing these people from the gene pool would fail to impact crime is beyond me. Their recidivism rate is zero, right? You can quibble over whether it’s statistically measurable or not, but please….

  3. Something else the study doesn’t show (at least I can’t find it) is the number of officer involved shootings during the same period. I suspect there was an increase there as well.

    Justifiable homicide by a trained permit holder is essentially the same as a police officer killing a suspect in the line of duty.

  4. I need some clarification here.

    Does this mean that if I happened across a unionthug violently raping a woman, say her name was Julie, or maybe Carrie; Alida’s motley crew is suggesting I should not intervene?

  5. The numbers and the conclusions may be correct but the public policy implications are not.

    The key line from the study is: “While the overall homicide rates in those states stayed relatively flat, the average number of justifiable cases per year increased by more than 50%.”

    Before the law: 320 homicides, 100 ruled justifiable.
    After the law: 320 homicides, 150 ruled justifiable.

    The numbers are accurate. The overall rate of homicides remained flat at 320. But the number of homicides ruled “justifiable” jumped 50%.

    As to conclusions, did the number of justifiable homicides jump? Yes. Were there more murders? No, we just reclassified some from “unjustified” to “justified.” Does reclassifying killings after the fact, prevent killings from occurring in the first place? Obviously not, the killings still happen regardless of whether we later rule the killing justified or not.

    Conclusion: The statistics prove that Stand Your Ground increases the number of justifiable homicides but does not prevent crime. The conclusions are accurate.

    THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S A BAD LAW. It means you’re being hoodwinked by the numbers and not seeing the consequences – fewer crime victim survivors savaged by the “justice system” after the fact. The numbers and conclusions may be correct but the law is still good public policy!

  6. The answer, [Texas A&M Professors Mark Hoekstra and Cheng Cheng] conclude, is [that “Stand Your Ground” does not deter crime]. In fact, the evidence suggests the laws have led to an increase in homicides.

    So your right to self defense depends on what some pointy-headed humanities professors from Texas think makes good public policy?
    Maybe next year they’ll find that free speech makes for bad social outcomes & should be banned.

  7. “Grant people who killed in self-defense immunity from civil lawsuits”

    This is one of the foremost reasons we need Stand Your Ground laws. Why allow the dead perps family or others the opportunity to profit from his criminal act, or to financially devastate his intended victim?

  8. It’s worth noting that, apart from a rise in justifiable homicide, nothing else in the study is statistically significant. One very interesting thing is that they pointed to a < 95% confidence increase in homicides in toto, but did not analyze a "bump" in homicides seen the year after passing of the first "stand your ground" laws seen in stand your ground states, but not in others. And then after that bump, homicides drop sharply in the stand your ground states.

    If they'd taken a look at that more carefully, there might have been some very interesting results.

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