In response to a new ad that cites the death of Trayvon Martin to encourage states to end Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws, Fox's Hannity claimed the laws actually benefit black Americans more than any other race. The falsehood, first pushed by the conservative blog The Daily Caller, ignores the fact that homicides with black victims are disproportionately found to be justified in SYG states, as well as SYG's impact on states' homicide rates.
Daily Caller Distorted Stand Your Ground Data To Claim Florida Law “Benefits” Blacks
Daily Caller: “Blacks Benefit From Florida 'Stand Your Ground' Law At Disproportionate Rate.” Citing data from Tampa Bay Times which chronicled the victims and defendants in Stand Your Ground cases in Florida, the conservative site Daily Caller claimed on July 16 that “African Americans benefit from Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' self-defense law at a rate far out of proportion to their presence in the state's population.” According to the Caller, black individuals “benefit” at a “disproportionate rate” because one-third of stand your ground claims were made by black defendants, and those who used the defense were successful 55 percent of the time, while white individuals were only successful in 53 percent of cases (including pending cases). [Daily Caller, 7/16/13]
Hannity Parrots Daily Caller's Spin On Stand Your Ground
Fox's Hannity: “Stand Your Ground Laws, Interestingly, Benefited Black Floridians More Than Anybody Else.” Fox's Hannity on August 20 featured a panel discussion on a new public service announcement from The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence that focuses on the killing of Trayvon Martin to call for an end to SYG laws. Host Sean Hannity pushed back on the ad by claiming, “Stand Your Ground laws, interestingly, benefited black Floridians more than anybody else.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/20/13]
Fox Contributor Jason Riley: SYG Is “Self-Defense That Benefits, Disproportionately, Poor Blacks.” During the same Hannity segment, Fox contributor Jason Riley agreed with Hannity's assertion that Florida's Stand Your Ground law most benefits African-Americans, saying, “You're absolutely right.” He then claimed of the ad, “The implication here is that Stand Your Ground laws increase gun violence, Sean. The evidence does that support that.” Riley later claimed of Stand Your Ground:
RILEY: It's self-defense that benefits, disproportionately, poor blacks. The same group that liberals claim to care so much about. As you said, in Florida, Florida blacks are about 17% of the population. But they're 31% of stand your ground defendants, Sean. These are the people who are using this law --
HANNITY: Most of them successfully.
RILEY: To defend themselves. So to the extent that we are limiting the ability of poor blacks to defend themselves -- I mean, these efforts are actually resulting in people's lives being taken. [Fox News, Hannity, 8/20/13]
But Under SYG, Homicides With Black Victims Much More Likely To Be Found Justified
In Florida SYG Cases, Nearly Four In Five Homicides Are Deemed Justified If The Victim Is Black. The Atlantic pointed out that the Tampa Bay Times data, cited by the Daily Caller to claim Stand Your Ground benefits black people, reveals that in Florida, those who killed black people and cited Stand Your Ground got off at a much higher rate than those who killed white people. The Atlantic explained the data:
For killings involving victims of color--black or Hispani [sic] --78 percent of the time the death was considered justified. For killings involving white victims, that rate sinks to 56 percent.
There's one specific situation in which blacks “benefited” from the “stand your ground” law, if you will. Killings of whites by blacks were slightly more likely to be found justified than killings of whites by whites. But otherwise, the law has been less than helpful to the state's black community. Nearly four-in-five killings of black people where it has been invoked have resulted in the killer being freed. It's hard to see the benefit in that. [The Atlantic, 7/17/13]
Urban Institute Fellow: Under SYG, White-On-Black Homicides Are 354% More Likely To Be Found Justified Than White-On-White Homicides. Research conducted by John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center, found that in states with Stand Your Ground laws, “the killings of black people by whites were more likely to be considered justified than the killings of white people by blacks.” Roman concluded that white people were 354 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than another white person across Stand Your Ground states. [PBS, 7/31/12]
And SYG Laws Are Linked To An Increase In Homicides
Justifiable Homicides Have Tripled In Florida Since SYG Enacted. The Washington Post reported that according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement data, the number of killings identified as justifiable homicides have tripled in the five years since the state's Stand Your Ground was enacted. The Post explained:
Justifiable homicides in Florida have tripled, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement data. Other states have seen similar increases, FBI statistics show.
In the five years before the law's passage, Florida prosecutors declared “justifiable” an average of 12 killings by private citizens each year. (Most justifiable killings are committed by police officers; those cases, which have also tripled, are not included in these statistics.) But in the five years after the law passed, that number spiked to an average of 36 justifiable killings per year.
Neither the state nor Florida's association of prosecutors declares the jump in justifiable homicides to be a direct result of the new law, but the state public defender's association does draw that connection, as have advocacy groups opposed to Stand Your Ground laws. [Washington Post, 4/7/12]
Studies Show “Statistically Significant” Rise In Homicides In SYG States. Economists at Texas A&M University studied national crime statistics to see the effect of Stand Your Ground laws in states that pass them. They determined that the laws not only fail to deter violent crimes, but actually “lead to a statistically significant 8 percent net increase in the number of reported murders and non-negligent manslaughters.” NPR reported on the university's findings, noting that a separate Georgia State University analysis similarly found correlation between the laws and higher homicide rates:
“These laws lower the cost of using lethal force,” says Mark Hoekstra, an economist with Texas A&M University who examined stand your ground laws. “Our study finds that, as a result, you get more of it.”
“Our study finds that, that homicides go up by 7 to 9 percent in states that pass the laws, relative to states that didn't pass the laws over the same time period,” he says.
As to whether the laws reduce crime -- by creating a deterrence for criminals -- he says, “we find no evidence of any deterrence effect over that same time period.”
Hoekstra obtained this result by comparing the homicide rate in states before and after they passed the laws. He also compared states with the laws to states without the laws.
“We find that there are 500 to 700 more homicides per year across the 23 states as a result of the laws,” he said.
In a separate analysis of death certificates before and after stand your ground laws were passed in different states, economists at Georgia State University also found that states that passed the laws ended up with a higher homicide rate. [NPR, 1/2/13; Does Strengthening Self-Defense Law Deter Crime or Escalate Violence?, Texas A&M Univsersity, accessed 8/21/13]
NPR compiled the economists' data to compare homicide rates in SYG states with that in other states: