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.
West Virginia and Alabama were covered in parts II and III; which form an introduction to the results of “Stand Your Ground” laws. Since both West Virginia and Alabama’s statues were recodification of existing statues, no radical increase in the incidence of either violent crime, homicide, or robbery was found; and what minor increases there were in the Mountaineer State and the Heart of Dixie were quickly traced to increased drug gang activity.
It should be clearly understood that each of the 50 States have some form of Stand Your Ground. In many States, Stand Your Ground is a “black letter statue,” imposed by judges who refused to allow a person clearly defending themselves to be convicted of murder. In others, Stand Your Ground is spelled out across several sections of state law, allowing prosecutors to pick and choose what statue a particular case will fall under. The latest trend in Stand Your Ground is to roll all the scattered parts of a State’s self defense legislation into a separate statue to guide prosecutors and defense attorneys alike. Something that those who love the law almost universally approve.
Now let me take up Florida, since this “study of Castle Doctrine laws” seem to be a reaction to George Zimmerman’s Stand Your Ground shooting of a younger, taller, and heavier man named Trayvon Martin. Something the authors allude to on page 3 of their treatise. Briefly quoting Chang and Hoekstra, page 6:
These findings also have significant policy implications. The first is that these laws do not appear to offer any hidden spillover benefits to society at large. Rather, the evidence indicates that the benefits of strengthening self defense laws begin and end with the added protection to the actual victims of violent crime. On the other hand, the primary potential downside of the law is the increased number of homicides. Thus, our view is that any evaluation of those laws ought to weigh the benefits of increased self-defense against the net increase in loss of life caused by the laws.
It is difficult to see how codifying laws that have been present in one form or another for over three centuries in some cases would cause any “net increase in loss of life cause by those laws.” However, that is Chang and Hoekstra’s thesis and they are sticking to it.
Obviously, Chang and Hoekstra place the value of a criminal’s life at or possibly above that of a law-abiding citizen. To be charitable – their words would lead one to believe they think the life of a notorious outlaw such as the Zeta Cartel’s ‘Commandante Kilo’ is as valuable to society as the bus loads of innocents he ordered slaughtered.
Returning to Florida’s 2006 Stand Your Ground law, the statue is unusual in that there is no universal provision barring those engaging in illegal activity from claiming self defense immunity. That has resulted in criminals going free after a self defense plea.
Next, examining the data derived from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, in spreadsheet form at disastercenter dot com:
In the usual order, violent crime, homicide, and robbery rates by year:
2005……708.9…..5.0…..169.6 The year Stand Your Ground was enacted
2006……712.0…..6.2…..188.8 The first full year of Florida’s Stand Your Ground
Examining Florida’s violent crime rates in the first data column, it is obvious that the variation in those rates were well within the range of normal statistical variation, until 2008, when the violent crime rate began to decline. That is the typical pattern when strengthened self defense laws are put in place. But obviously nothing of any significance occurred on that front when Stand Your Ground was put in place.
The homicide rate in the second data column declined through 2005, and then suddenly took a jump in 2006. Since the Stand Your Ground law was in effect for a substantial part of 2005, if the law were to increase the murder rate one would expect at least some immediate increase in homicide rates. None is seen, so we will return to this question presently.
The third column is the robbery rate, which shows the same pattern as the homicide rate. And the reason for that? There were sharp increases in homicide and violent crime rates in a just a few of Florida’s metropolitan areas. Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa-St.Petersburg, and the Miami Metroplex in particular. Even Jacksonville had a 21% increase in homicides, from 95 to 115 between 2005 and 2008. Why? The drug wars.
Much greater supplies of and access to meth, cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs resulted in drug gangs trying to “gain turf,” and shooting each other in turf wars. A new balance was achieved in 2009 and 2010, reducing the homicide and robbery rates. So again, we have no “smoking gun.” The short term increase in homicide and robbery rates are clearly related to the drug wars; wars that are to a lesser extent still going on in Florida.
The long term decrease in homicide and violent crime rates provides a substantial benefit to the community. After all, Florida’s homicide and violent crime rates were officially 11.4 per 100,000 when citizens of good character were first allowed to carry concealed weapons. In the interim, the homicide rate has dropped by 54%, to just 5.2 per 100,000 population. Self defense works – and laws that permit self defense are of inestimable value to society at large.