In our first examination of Cheng Cheng and Mark Hoekstra’s “study proving Castle Doctrine laws increase crime,” we determined several things, including the facts that Cheng and Hoekstra were ‘studying’ Stand Your Ground laws, and Texas’ Stand Your Ground laws had been followed by a sharp decrease in violent crime.
As regular readers are well aware, crime stats in low population states tend to be dominated by “normal statistical variation,” something most of those who deal in numbers call “noise.” The resulting “case of the jaggies” often confounds those who expect a clearcut trend, whether it is up, down, or sideways.
For today, let us take a closer look at a smaller state, West Virginia, and West Virginia’s Stand Your Ground Law. That law is something of a red herring in the debate over “Stand Your Ground” legislation.
Before the latest statue, West Virginia was like most American States, with “no duty to retreat” scattered among several of the State’s statues. At least one of those statues was inherited when West Virginia separated from Virginia in 1861, and dates back to Virginia’s earliest settlements. In 2008 the West Virginia Legislature codified the various laws into a single comprehensive law, West Virginia Code 55-7-22.
Since gathering up scattered sections of law and placing them in a single piece of legislation should have no real effect on much of anything, we are free to look at West Virgina as a neutral case. I would suggest the West Virginia code as a model of clarity, but the question is what effect 55-7-22 has on violent crime rates. Turning to the numbers excerpted from the FBI Uniform Crime Report at Disaster Center dot Com we find what we usually find when we examine low population States.
Again, starting two years before 55-7-22 was enacted and looking at the results of the violent crime, homicide, and robbery rates in that order, we find the following:
2008……277.0…..3.7…..49.5 Year of enactment of the codified law
2009……305.2…..4.6…..50.2 First full year of the codified law
Statistically speaking, excepting 2010, these numbers are well within the range of “normal statistical variation.” 2010 is enough to tip the homicide and robbery trends very slightly down, but the violent crime rate remains elevated. Why?
Well, it certainly is not any “Stand Your Ground” law. As far as that law goes, nothing has changed other than the fact that prosecutors and defense attorneys now have one law to argue instead of a half dozen. So what?
In one word, drugs. The lovely Appalachian hills and hollows are as useful for hiding drug trafficking as they were for hiding moon-shining a century and a half ago. The Mountaineer State has become a hub of illegal drug activity, distributing both home grown and Cartel drugs to much of the Northeast Corridor. And the results have been a sharp increase in serious physical assaults, as well as an unusually variable homicide rate.
West Virgina is also #2 in prescription drug abuse, a fact that goes far to explain the State’s relatively flat property crime rates over time. And so the bottom line is?
West Virginia has had “Stand Your Ground” as long as it has been a state. It should not have been included among those States that enacted Stand Your Ground after 2000 in the first place. However, since it was included, examination makes it clear that the 2008 codification has had little effect on homicide, violent crime, or property crime rates.