Lott, pictured left of Jordan Davis' mother, Lucia McBath.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott attacked the presence of the mothers of deceased African-American teenagers Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis at a congressional hearing on Stand Your Ground, describing them as “props” used to make “the case that there was racial bias” in the controversial self-defense law.
On the October 30 edition of the National Rifle Association's news show Cam & Company, Lott said the two mothers “were there to go and try serve as props essentially for the case that there was racial bias in Stand Your Ground laws,” before falsely claiming that the self-defense law had no relevance to either of their son's shooting deaths:
LOTT: Well I thought [the hearing] was somewhat surreal. Look, we had two very sympathetic witnesses that were there. Trayvon Martin's mom and another mother who had lost her son in a shooting, both of them were black, and they were there to go and try serve as props essentially for the case that there was racial bias in Stand Your Ground laws. As I say, it's very hard to say anything when you're having to deal with a mother who has lost her son, under any circumstances. I have five kids; I can't imagine what it would be like to deal with that situation.
The problem was, the reason why I was saying it was somewhat surreal is that neither of their cases really had anything to do with the debate over Stand Your Ground laws.
On October 29, Lott, along with Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton and Davis' mother Lucia McBath, testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee on Stand Your Ground that was held to examine a number of issues surrounding the law, including whether the law made it more likely for homicides of minorities to be ruled “justifiable.”
Fulton, whose testimony argued “poorly worded self-defense laws create an environment that encourages and enables violent, armed individuals to kill people,” told senators at the hearing, “The person that shot and killed my son is walking the streets today and this law doesn't work.” McBath, whose son was fatally shot by a man angry at a group of teenagers for playing loud music at a Florida gas station in November 2012, expressed concern during the hearing that Stand Your Ground would allow her son's killer to avoid a criminal conviction.
Lott's testimony largely argued that African-Americans benefit from Stand Your Ground laws, a falsehood invented by the right-wing media. Best known as the author of the book “More Guns, Less Crime,” Lott's research in support of looser gun laws has been discredited in academic circles and he has faced credible accusations of data manipulation and fabrication. Prone to employing falsehoods to defend Stand Your Ground, Lott previously used his blog to spread a false rumor that a Florida rally in support of Trayvon Martin spurred a violent racially motivated attack against a white man.
His claim on NRA News that the Martin and Davis cases have nothing to do with Stand Your Ground is false. In Martin's case, Lott employed a right-wing media canard to state on NRA News that because “the defense was never raised,” by George Zimmerman's attorneys that the law was absent from the case. In fact, Stand Your Ground was cited by local officials as the reason Zimmerman wasn't initially arrested, an explanation of the law was included in instructions to the jury, and a juror later cited the law by name as a reason for why Zimmerman was acquitted.
An attorney for Davis' shooter, Michael Dunn, has suggested to media that her client will employ a Stand Your Ground defense. Dunn claims that before he shot Davis that someone in the SUV the teenager was sitting in brandished a shotgun. No weapon was recovered. Even if Dunn decides not to participate in a pretrial immunity hearing offered to those who claim a Stand Your Ground defense in Florida, Stand Your Ground modified Florida law in favor of those who use deadly force before claiming self-defense. For example, the model jury instruction on self-defense before Stand Your Ground was enacted asked whether the defendant “used every reasonable means within his power and consistent with his own safety to avoid the danger before resorting to that force.” That instruction has been eliminated and replaced with language affirming the defendant's right to “stand his ground and meet force with force.”
Lott's claim that Fulton and McBath are “props” echoes a common attack by conservative media on family members of those who died in the Sandy Hook mass shooting in December 2012. Myriad conservative media decried Newtown families who supported the Obama administration's attempt to strengthen gun laws as “props” and victims of exploitation, even though those families were advocating for policies that they themselves supported. As Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent noted in an April 18 column on the “absurd” props claim, “the families want to stand with the President at events for a fairly obvious reason: Obama is fighting for the same things they want.” The same principle explains Fulton and McBath's participation at the Stand Your Ground hearing.