Gun control advocates, like everyone else in the country, are weighing in on Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis homeowners who displayed their firearms after they say they were threatened by protesters who were trespassing while marching to the home of Mayor Lyda Krewson. As you can imagine, anti-gun activists are appalled, and not only by the admittedly poor firearms handling displayed by the pair. Kris Brown, the head of the gun control group Brady, took to Twitter with this hot take alleging that the McCloskeys could have been legally shot by protesters.
And let's be clear: since Patricia McCloskey & her husband pointed guns first, "Stand Your Ground" might also have allowed the protesters to shoot in their own self-defense. But of course, we know that SYG laws are inherently racist and typically only serve white individuals. https://t.co/U00oDeg9ds
— Kris Brown (@KrisB_Brown) June 29, 2020
It’s kind of impressive how much Brown got wrong in just one tweet. First, since the protesters were trespassing on private property, Stand Your Ground doesn’t apply to them, because they had no legal right to be there. In fact, not a single protester contacted police about the McCloskeys, likely because they didn’t want to admit to trespassing.
What about the racial impact of Stand Your Ground laws? Are they really inherently racist laws that typically only benefit white gun owners?
In a word, no. The Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro actually testified about this a few years ago, and pointed out that black gun owners and white gun owners both benefit from the law.
In August 2012, John Roman of the Urban Institute published an article entitled “Do Stand Your Ground Laws Worsen Racial Disparities?” After examining the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide data for the years 2005-2009, he concluded that when white defenders kill black attackers, “the justifiable homicide rate is 34 percent.” If the defender is black and the attacker white, however, the “justifiable homicide rate” is only 3 percent. Roman concluded that SYG laws make racial disparities “more pronounced” and are “bad laws.”
Considering that Supplemental Homicide data for the years 2000-2011 were available at the time of Roman’s study, it’s telling that he chose only a limited dataset. Researchers call this sampling error, where an abridged dataset contradicts the findings from all available data. The entire Supplemental Homicide dataset for the years 2000-2011 clearly shows, like most laws liberalizing the civil right of self-defense, that blacks benefit from SYG at least as much as whites.
Then, in February 2013, the Tampa Bay Times examined more than 200 Florida court cases involving SYG, concluding: “Defendants claiming ‘stand your ground’ are more likely to prevail if the victim is black.” Second Amendment scholar David Hardy analyzed the Times dataset, however, and found that Florida courts applied SYG without racial bias: Two-thirds of white and black defendants claiming SYG protection were exonerated.
Shapiro went on to lay out more data debunking the idea that Stand Your Ground laws are racist and are used far more frequently to exonerate white gun owners.
It turns out that SYG states are far more racially egalitarian than non-enacting states, because black defenders account for nearly as many justifiable homicides as whites—46% and 49%, respectively. In non-SYG states exhibit racial disparity, because blacks account for 35% of all justifiable homicides while whites account for 58%, disproving the conclusions of the flawed anti-self-defense studies.
Black defenders in SYG states accounted for 2.2% more justifiable homicides after enactment, experiencing an increase in justifiable homicides in 11 of 17 states. Six SYG states experienced increased justifiable homicides against white attackers after enactment, compared to only two non-enacting states. This clearly shows that SYG laws resulted in more law-abiding black citizens defending themselves. Indeed, if fewer black defenders killing white attackers indicates racism, then it’s the non-enacting states that are “racist” because black defense against white attackers declined 4% between 2006 and 2011, while increasing slightly (0.3%) in SYG states.
In other words, if Kris Brown really wants to talk about racist gun laws, she shouldn’t point fingers at Stand Your Ground laws. Instead, she might want to take a look at the racial impact of, say, New York City’s gun licensing laws. As was detailed in a case called Thomas vs. O’Neill, the NYPD considers any arrest when determining whether or not someone should be granted a pistol license, even if the arrest didn’t lead to a prosecution.
According to attorney Peter Tilem, from 2010 to 2016 black defendants had their cases dismissed at twice the rate of white defendants. Those dismissals still served as prohibitory factor in denying black New Yorkers their gun license, which Tilem called a clear sign of racial disparity in the NPYD policy. In fact, Tilem said he only became aware of the issue because of the large number of black clients who told him that their license was either revoked or denied because of dismissed arrests.
If Brady is really concerned about the racial disparities of gun laws, they should pay less attention to Stand Your Ground and begin the hard work of undoing their own gun control regimes in “may issue” places like New York City and Los Angeles. Something tells me, however, that’s not going to be a top priority for the anti-gun groups, which are still working as hard as they can to uphold those laws in court, and to put more of them on the books in states across the country.