The anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety highlighted in a recent email to supporters a new study that supposedly claims “Stand Your Ground” (SYG) laws are racist and result in more homicides and violent crime.
The study, according to Everytown, “concludes the laws do not improve public safety and have led to increases in violent crime and homicide in Florida and other states.” In addition, “the review… also highlighted evidence of racial bias in the outcomes of cases where someone invokes a ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense.”
There’s just one problem: the study in question proves none of these things. Instead, it found almost no evidence that SYG laws increase violent crime and even less evidence that their outcomes are determined by racial bias.
“Overall, expanding rights and protections for the use of deadly force in self-defense outside the home had an average null to small positive association with firearm homicide, total homicide, robberies, and aggravated assaults across the United States,” the study finds.
Later, it concludes, “The weight of this evidence suggests that expanding civilian rights to use deadly force in self-defense outside the home is associated with, at most, modest increases, on average, in the rates of violent crime (including total and firearm homicide, aggravated assault, and robbery) across the United States.”
Researchers compiled data from 25 studies that investigated the effect of stand your ground laws in the U.S. While one study found a significant increase in violent crime in Florida, another study found a reduction in homicides following the passage of SYG laws. Everytown conveniently chose not to include that piece of information in their email.
The anti-gun group also chose not to mention how SYG laws are supposedly racist. Most readers would likely assume that SYG laws are racist because white people use them to get away with killing black people.
In reality, researchers found “evidence” of racial bias in the Florida court system when the victim is white and the perpetrator is a racial minority. In other words, Florida judges are more likely to deny a racial minority’s SYG defense if the victim is white.
This may indicate a problem with the criminal justice system in Florida, but it’s unclear why SYG laws contribute to that inequality.
Everytown isn’t alone in overstating the study’s findings. Even the study’s author engages in hyperbole when describing the conclusions of his own study.
“The accumulated evidence is remarkably consistent and suggests that these laws are both harmful and inequitable,” lead author Dr. David Humphreys said in a press release. “These findings should act as an alarm bell for states thinking of enacting these laws.”
Dr. Humphreys likely felt compelled to make this assessment because his study was bankrolled by the Joyce Foundation, whose grant program seeks to support “stronger policies to reduce gun violence and reform how the justice system deals with young, non-violent gun offenders,” according to its 2019 tax filings.
“Gun violence is one of the central health and safety challenges of our time, with more than 110,000 Americans injured or killed by guns every year,” the Foundation claims.
In 2019, the Joyce Foundation gave over $7 million to fund “gun violence prevention and judicial reforms.”
Click here to read the study for yourself.