America's First Freedom - February 2014 - 48

I L A

F E A T U R E

Self-defense is a fundamental human right of
all people, and the NRA will not back away from
supporting laws that recognize this principle.
limitations were ineffective, because people cannot see past their own racial prejudice.
As one such witness opined, even if these laws are not intended to be racist, they have
that impact because of the racial "baggage" jurors carry in this country.
Establishing this storyline, Rep. Marcia Fudge, d-Ohio, characterized two young
African American men killed in claimed self-defense shootings as "martyrs" and said
they didn't ask for that designation, "the American legal system made them martyrs."
She claimed that the combination of concealed-carry laws, syg, and racial profiling
"fosters a Wild West environment where individuals play the role of judge, jury and
executioner." Attacking the essence of self-defense not just in syg states, but in all
jurisdictions, she asserted, "The enforcement of Stand Your Ground laws too often rely
on the decisions of those with cultural biases on when a person's life is in danger."
Rep. Fudge went on to decry "the underlying taint of racial profiling in both our culture
and criminal justice system," and said that "until these unjust and inherently biased
laws are repealed, we have a responsibility to advocate and educate."
Rep. Luis Gutierrez ratcheted up the rhetoric, characterizing syg as "shoot first"
laws and invoking the Sandy Hook massacre and the loss of "a classroom full of kids
every day" in insisting that Congress take action against these laws. He criticized
the "gun lobby" for attempting to make bearing arms for self-defense "socially and
legally acceptable." Again casting the debate in racial terms and attacking foundational
principles of all self-defense, he insisted that syg laws "exacerbate the mistrust of the
police of a minority community" and that "trust further deteriorates with shoot first
laws, when communities question whether racial bias or stereotypes will enter into the
question of whether someone had a reasonable fear."
Fortunately, the accusations against syg did not stand unanswered. Ilya Shapiro,
senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, used his time to refocus
the debate on the topic of no duty to retreat and explained the concept has a pedigree
in American law dating back over 150 years and is current law in 31 u.s. states. Like
others, he mentioned the unanimous 1895 Supreme Court case of Beard v. United
States as also enshrining syg in federal law. Shapiro noted that Florida's 2005 syg law
passed the Senate unanimously and had Democratic support in the House. He also
explained that of the 15 states that codified the concept in later years, the majority
had Democratic governors, some of whom (including Janet Napolitano and Kathleen
Sebelius) went on to become political appointees in the Obama administration. Even
Barack Obama himself, Shapiro said, co-sponsored a unanimously approved bill as an
Illinois senator that expanded the state's self-defense laws. According to Shapiro, syg is
particularly relevant in the domestic violence context, where victims cannot simply run
away from their abusers and hope never to see them again.
Economist Dr. John Lott then went on to detail how empirical evidence shows those
most likely to be victims of violent crime, low-income African Americans, benefit most
from strong self-defense laws. He explained that in Florida, African Americans and
Hispanics successfully invoke the legal protections of syg at a higher rate than whites.
He also noted that while post-2005 data from Florida showed a higher rate of acquittals
in syg cases where an African American person is killed, 90 percent of persons being
charged in those cases were themselves African American. This is because, Lott noted,
violent confrontations overwhelmingly occurred between persons of the same race.
Lott also looked at other variables in these cases that might explain why syg was so
often successfully invoked when the deceased was African American and found that
in a higher percentage of those cases, the deceased was armed or in the process of
committing another crime, or a witness was present to corroborate that the slayer acted
in self-defense.
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Lott additionally went on to debunk
claims other witnesses made based on
studies by the Urban Institute and Texas
a&m. Using the Urban Institute's own
data, Lott showed that conviction rates
are actually lower for African Americans
who live in syg states. He also noted that
a Texas a&m study that purported to
show an increase in homicides after the
enactment of syg laws failed to account
for other relevant variables that, when
controlled for, make the differences
disappear. Lott's written testimony
should be required reading for anybody
who truly wants to understand the data
underlying this issue.
Even Harvard Law professor
Ronald Sullivan, while willing to
make wild claims about syg laws and
racial profiling, had to acknowledge-
reluctantly-that the data purporting
to show a racial bias is inconclusive and
that syg laws were not passed with
racist intent.
In his concluding remarks,
Sen. Ted Cruz, r-Texas, reminded the
subcommittee that the syg defense is not
available to those who initiate aggression,
and that the real question is whether
the law should favor the attacker or the
innocent victim. He called Durbin's
assertion that no one could reasonably
believe that African Americans benefit
from syg remarkable, given how many
are victims of violent crime and have
successfully invoked the law's protection.
Sen. Durbin angrily responded that
the director of the Washington Bureau
of the naacp agreed with him and
that he would not "back away" from
pursuing the racial implications of this
issue. Sen. Durbin, however, would do
well to remember the historic words of
Dr. Martin Luther King, when he looked
forward to a day in which people were
not "judged by the color of their skin,
but by the content of their character." To
that end, Sen. Durbin should also know
that supporters of syg and armed selfdefense will not be bullied or intimidated
by slanderous accusations about their
motives. Self-defense is a fundamental
human right of all people, and the nra
will not back away from supporting laws
that recognize this principle.



America's First Freedom - February 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of America's First Freedom - February 2014

America's First Freedom - February 2014 - 1
America's First Freedom - February 2014 - 2
America's First Freedom - February 2014 - 3
America's First Freedom - February 2014 - 4
America's First Freedom - February 2014 - 5
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