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E.J. Dionne’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Fantasies

Junk science and hyperbole from the Washington Post writer.

by
Howard Nemerov

Bio

February 22, 2014 - 12:01 am

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On Wednesday, Washington Post opinion writer E.J. Dionne Jr. used the Michael Dunn conviction as “proof” that we need to repeal “stand your ground” laws.

(Briefly: Michael Dunn was found guilty of three charges of attempted second-degree murder. After ordering the victims to turn down their “loud music,” Dunn shot into their vehicle, killing one. Dunn claimed self-defense, saying he thought they were going to attack him.)

Dionne’s three main points offer a classic example of an op-ed writer promoting a misleading agenda.

1. Dionne: “['Stand your ground' laws] aggravate mistrust across racial lines.”

To support this claim, Dionne cited Tampa Bay Times research which examined over 200 Florida court cases involving “stand your ground” and concluded: “Defendants claiming ‘stand your ground’ are more likely to prevail if the victim is black.”

But the Tampa Bay Times ignored their own evidence to the contrary: two-thirds of white and black defendants claiming “stand your ground” protection were exonerated. In other words, the law was applied equitably.

The Tampa Bay Times also misrepresented their data in order to imply that Florida’s “stand your ground” law favored white defenders. But for most black attackers, the victims were black, too.

Finally, black defenders living in “stand your ground” states experienced a larger increase in justifiable homicides than their contemporaries living in non-enacting states. Also, black defenders shooting white attackers declined in non-enacting states.

If Dionne wants to play the race card over Stand Your Ground, then the most racist states are those like California, New York, and Illinois, which limit law-abiding blacks’ ability to defend themselves.

(For more on this research, read here.)

2.Dionne: “They appear to increase, rather than decrease, crime.”

Dionne cited Texas A&M researchers Cheng Cheng and Mark Hoekstra, who concluded that enhanced self-defense laws like “stand your ground” increased homicide.

There were many fatal errors with this research. The biggest error: Cheng and Hoekstra began with an incomplete dataset, including states that didn’t enhance their laws while ignoring others that did. Beginning with a flawed foundation led to invalid conclusions.

On average, “stand your ground” states experienced a 10% decline in their murder rates, and experienced declines in robbery and aggravated assaults. Non-adopting states averaged a 2% increase in their murder rates.

If Dionne is correct in saying that “stand your ground” laws affect violence, then non-adopting states are guilty of not empowering their law-abiding citizens to defend themselves against violent attackers.

(For more on this research, read here.)

3. Dionne: “We should not have had to go through another racially charged trial in Florida to learn all this.”

Dunn is white and his victims are black; Dionne irrationally uses these facts to link the Dunn case to the George Zimmerman case and “stand your ground.” His claims of racial injustice are propaganda.

Even ABC News admits that “stand your ground” laws had nothing to do with either the George Zimmerman or Michael Dunn cases. Both defendants claimed straight self-defense, which ABC acknowledged as predating “stand your ground.” Back then, retreat was not required if the defender was at imminent risk of death or serious injury.

Michael Dunn’s current age is 47, and each guilty charge carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years, running consecutively. This minimum sentence of 60 years likely equates to a life sentence, the strongest conviction reasonably possible in this case. Even Dionne admits Dunn “could spend the rest of his life in prison.”

Dionne misses the most important lesson from the very case he cited as the reason to repeal “stand your ground,” something even the Tampa Bay Times proved over 200 times during their research: You can’t kill somebody, claim protection under “stand your ground,” and expect the justice system to say, “Oh, if that’s your claim, it’s okay.”

You can claim justification under “stand your ground,” but keep these vital truths in mind before using deadly force:

  • You will be investigated by the police.
  • You can be charged with one or more serious felony offenses.
  • You can be prosecuted in a court of law.
  • You can be convicted.
  • You can spend the rest of your life in prison.

Dionne ignored all these facts in order to attack “stand your ground.” But like the researchers he cited, he made fallacious assumptions and got all of it wrong.

Should we trust people like Dionne when deciding how and when we can defend our lives?

(Artwork created using multiple Shutterstock.com images.)

Former civilian disarmament supporter and medical researcher Howard Nemerov investigates the civil liberty of self-defense and examines the issue of gun control, resulting in his book Four Hundred Years of Gun Control: Why Isn’t It Working? He appears frequently on NRA News as their “unofficial” analyst and was published in the Texas Review of Law and Politics with David Kopel and Carlisle Moody.

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Top Rated Comments   
Something to ponder: 20 years ago Washington Post columnists and CNN anchors were taken far more seriously than they are today.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dionne is a rabid partisan elitist who believes the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties and thus behaves according to that credo, just like the current Oval Office Occupant.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Liberals have used the Zimmerman and Dunn cases to attack "stand your ground " laws, which neither case involved, and to push the fantasy of white on black crime, which is rare compared to black on black crime. Both the Zimmerman and Dunn juries returned fair verdicts - although the Dunn jury hung on the premeditated murder count, which may have been a matter of prosecutorial over-charging. Dunn is going away for many years - as he should be - and faces retrial on the murder charge. The idea that either of these cases should be a reason to talk about, let alone repeal, stand your ground laws is ridiculous.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (43)
All Comments   (43)
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In the left's lexicon, "stand your ground" has no more real meaning than "fascist" or "right-wing". It is a well-known phrase and general stand-in for "I don't like this, and you shouldn't either, so I'll use a known moniker of infamy."
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Maybe the FCC should put observers in newsrooms. EJ could certainly use some help with logic, honesty and arithmetic.

Haven't read or heard him in years and only notice when mentioned on these pages.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dionne is a silly twit. Probably has never read the text of a "Stand your ground" law. I never read his twaddle any more.
JimB
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Should we trust people like Dionne .......?"

Fixed it for you.

Answer by the way is "No!"
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Peeps... everything E.J Dionne says is a fantasy. Provide pity and prayers. That's just about all we can do.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Disarm America, destroy the 2nd Amendment, things will be so much easier then. Let the putsch begin.
But I think there's going to be a lot of shocked LittlelLiberals.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
E.J. Dionne Jr has been lying about a lot of things for a lot of years; he works for liars so that is to be expected.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dionne is either ignorant of easily-available facts about the Martin-Zimmerman case or he is deliberately lying. Given that this kind of ignorance-or-lying turns up in his work on Catholicism (he is supposedly a member of the Church), economics, history and even current events, I lean toward deliberate lying. Which gets through only because the editors who use his work allow it.
Regarding your bullet list that follows use of force: each is correct, depending on the findings of the investigation. Any use of violence is properly subject to legal scrutiny. Those who have done what must be done, whether there is injury or death or no blood shed at all, should be able to show a reasonable cause for their actions. Those who did wrong, as it seems Dunn did wrong, should endure the penalty of their misjudgment or of their malice.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dionne has passed his "sell by" date. He needs to be retired for inaccurate punditry and an inability to understand his topic.

"Put Ed Dionne to sleep"
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Howard:

Publishing here is just preaching to the choir. I recommend that you submit this article to the Post as either a letter to the editor or an OPED piece. If they refuse publish then go to twitter and publicize it. This is the problem with conservative journalism. You live in the bubble and then wonder why the MSM isn't loosing its authority.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
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