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Stand Your Ground Florida: Why JAMA Study is Misleading

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By Chris Wagoner:

It isn’t often I get to take on such a prestigious (I use the term very loosely here) source as The Journal of the American Medical Association, but I feel obligation when they publish purposefully misleading statements, attempting to further their obvious agenda against a law that makes Florida safer and has reduced crime overall.

On November 14th, the journal published a study by several doctors titled, “Evaluating the Impact of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Self-Defense Law on Homicide and Suicide by Firearm – An Interrupted Time Series Study”. This so-called study was picked up immediately by the anti-gun press and others as a landmark study that proved Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law (by the way, there is no such law) caused an increase in homicides in just one day! This of course is completely and utterly false and misleading information.

First, there is no such law as “stand your ground” despite Americans hearing the catch phrase over and over. It’s like anything else the media tries to push, if they repeat it often enough it will magically become true. Sorry media, the law you keep mislabeling is Florida law (F.S.S. 776.012 (1)) referring to “Use of Force in Defense of a Person”. Sounds a lot different, doesn’t it? Yes, the words “stand his or her ground” appear in the law, but like anything else, it must be used appropriately in all context. Here is what it actually says,

“A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.”

When placed in context, the meaning changes. Obviously, these doctors thought using the change in the law (which changed the way a lot of incidents were reported) and using it without context they could draw conclusions that shaped the following statement:

“The removal of restrictions on when and where individuals can use lethal force was associated with a significant increase in homicide and homicide by firearm in Florida.”

Really? Did I just read that correctly? Are they saying the law which states you do not have to retreat or run away if you are lawfully allowed to be where you are in order to defend yourself, caused people in the one month that it had gone into effect to kill more people than before? In fact, they boldly claim, “these results estimate that after the law took effect there was an abrupt and sustained increase in the monthly homicide rate of 24.4%…and in the rate of homicide by firearm of 31.6%”

Wow, I guess when they passed this change in law people of Florida just went homicide happy and killed more people than the previous few days, right? I mean isn’t that what it says? Of course, that is not what happened and the doctors, analysts, and publishers should be ashamed of themselves for trying to mislead the American public with such skewed statements. It is a blatant attempt to take something out of context and bend it, as well as the numbers, to make it fit their agenda. These so-called doctors should be banned from any further research articles and publications, since they obviously have no idea how to publish an unbiased and purely empirical study.The charts within the study actually show what happened during this time rather clearly and it’s not in line with the conclusions stated in the article. The number of homicides, by the new definition of the law increased, not the actual previously recorded number. In fact, if you look at the study and look at the charts they provide, it is very clear to the naked, non-PhD eye that homicides in Florida were on the decline.

In addition, the study lists The Social Science Journal by a Professor Gius at Quinnipiac University as a reference in which an article states, “In 2016 a study by Gius, 12 using uniform crime reports (FBI data) between 1995 and 2010, found no relationship between the enactment of stand your ground laws and either homicide or firearm homicide.”:

OK so which is it? It is obvious to the untrained eye that the enactment of a law in Florida did not cause a sudden increase in the actual number of homicides in Florida. It simply caused incidents that before would not have been captured as homicides to now be defined as such. And when you look at the numbers provided in the charts within the study, it is obvious the trend of homicides continued to fall.

I would like to post my own conclusions regarding this study and its findings. I would like to postulate that the good professors had no idea what they were doing when it came to looking at these numbers. If you were to look at the numbers out of context like they did, not taking the redefining law into consideration, one might be led to believe that in the month of 2005 when the new Use of Force Law went into effect, Floridians went homicide happy and killed more people than before. Since of course this was not true, I used their own numbers and charts to prove my postulation. Here is a chart from that study that they used to “prove” their hypothesis, yet I simply added a little red to it to easily disprove their conclusion. As you can plainly see, the rate of homicide was on the decline prior to 2005, and after the new law was passed, it continued at about the same rate, and now is lower than the start of the study in 1999.

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So in conclusion what does the JAMA study show? That the Homicide rate in Florida is at an all-time low and has been decreasing since 1999 (or before) and that the new version of the Use of Force law had no effect on the rate other than to cause a jump in the numbers due to a redefining of the law, and a new way of looking at the ability to defend oneself.

Shame on JAMA for even publishing this.  It tells me they are not as wise, unbiased, or credited as they claim to be. And to the “doctors” that wrote this study, you may want to look at your own charts and learn more about how redefining and re-classifying laws impact statistics. You obviously messed this one up or at minimum did a poor job covering your tracks when skewing numbers and conclusions to mislead the American people. I am going to take my non-PhD self and get another cup of coffee while enjoying the lowest homicide rate in Florida in over 15 years.

Chris Wagoner is an OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Army Veteran . He has been in law enforcement the last 35+ years. He specializes in LE Firearms Instruction, and is in charge of a large Police Academy in North Florida. In his spare time Chris is a free-lance Military Reporter and owner/founder of the Largest Military Videos Channel on YouTube “3rdID8487”.

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