Does ‘Stand Your Ground’ Triple Justifiable Homicides? July 20, 2013Posted by geoff in News.
Jesse Jackson’s been a’flappin’ his gums:
“No doubt, the inclination is to boycott Florida, to stop conventions, to isolate Florida as a kind of apartheid state given this whole ‘stand your ground’ law,” Jackson told CNN. “Homicides against blacks have tripled since this law has been in existence.”
In general, well, that’s real retarded sir. But this business of “homicides against blacks have tripled” since the ‘stand your ground’ law was enacted in 2005 is troubling. I’m seeing a lot of liberal commentators seizing upon this stat, though it’s usually phrased as:
“Justifiable homicides have tripled since the passage of the ‘Stand Your Ground Law'”
So what’s the deal? Is it true that ‘Stand Your Ground’ has turned Florida into a land of trigger-happy, homicidal people just waiting to use excessive force?
Of course not.
First, consider the magnitude of the problem. Justifiable homicides by civilians increased from around 12/year to 36/year. Those are a small fraction of the total homicides in Florida (which typically number over a 1000/yr).
Second, Politifact/Florida took a look at this over a year ago, and pointed out that the stat could easily be due to a change in the definition of “justifiable homicide.”
Gary Kleck, a professor of criminology at Florida State University, has researched how the FBI and police departments define justifiable homicide.
Criminologists are suspicious of sharp increases or decreases within a short time frame, he said.
“I don’t believe anything triples.…Increases that sharp are probably due to some artificial cause like a shift in how people are defining events,” Kleck said. “It’s possible nothing actually changed in frequency except police departments increasingly defined homicide claimed to be defensive as a justifiable homicide. … Local police departments are increasingly viewing alleged defensible homicide as falling into the UCR definition. I don’t think they are trying to rig data, they honestly shifted their perceptions of what qualifies.”
But does that really explain the change? Well, PolitiFact also provided the following lovely table:
|Calendar Year||Justifiable homicide by civilian||Justifiable homicide by police||Total|
|First half of 2011||16||33||49|
Just looking at the table, it’s obvious that the redefinition explanation is very likely to be true, because police homicides jumped up nearly 3X at the same time as civilian homicides. Unless we presume that the police force went crazy at exactly the same time as civilians started abusing their newfound powers, you have to believe that the police changed their definition of “justifiable homicide.”
But I don’t think that’ll stop Jesse from abusing these stats.