Media Matters, 'Stand Your Ground' and me

Media Matters’ Founder David Brock showed no shame when he was caught illegally using guns for his own personal protection. Indeed, Media Matters’ continues to lash out at others who own guns or support letting individuals use guns for the own protection, even increasing their attacks.

In April alone, Media Matters ran 32 articles attacking the NRA alone. Additional pieces have defended the Obama administration’s Fast & Furious program and dealt with other gun related topics.

Media Matters also attacked me three times over the last two weeks: I had an op-ed in the New York Daily News and an appearance on MSNBC defending Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine laws and The New York Times actually had the temerity to interview me and refer to me as “a researcher of gun culture who has held teaching or research posts at a number of universities.”

Media Matters wasn’t happy.

In total, since January 2011, they have criticized me in 25 pieces.

With headlines such as “John Lott fudges gun facts again” and “New York Times citing discredited gun researcher John Lott,” Media Matters attempts to thuggishly intimidate both people such as myself and those who talk to me (my response to their piece on the New York Times is available here). Alas, some people, including those in the media, believe Media Matters.

With Florida Gov. Rick Scott's “Stand Your Ground” commission holding its first meeting last Tuesday, the national media is again focusing on these laws and it might explain part of Media Matters’ hyperventilating about media appearances.

Not surprisingly, Media Matters has consistently refused to let me post responses in their comment sections. Yet, their claims inflame and confuse the debate. Take their response to my op-ed in the New York Daily News.

The difference between 'Stand Your Ground' and 'Castle Doctrine' laws is over where they apply, not what the rule is. Both laws remove the duty to retreat. Castle Doctrine laws apply to attacks within ones home as well as sometimes on ones property. Once you step off your property and onto the sidewalk Stand Your Ground laws apply.

The research studied the seven states that had adopted Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine during the 1977 to 2005 period, and eight states had these types of laws prior to 1977.

Washington State’s Supreme Court implemented Stand Your Ground rules in 1999. Utah’s and Florida's Stand Your Ground laws were enacted in 2003 and October 1, 2005, respectively.

Four other states had Castle Doctrine rules. Obviously, more states have adopted the laws since then, and they can also be studied. But for those states that did change their laws during the period studied, there were drops in violent crime. A complete list of the state laws was provided in the third edition of "More Guns, Less Crime" (University of Chicago Press, 2010, p. 332).

My piece made it clear that the laws had changed over time: "Earlier statutes affirmatively required potential victims to retreat as much as possible before using deadly force to protect themselves." But even with these restriction states, there have been certain common law traditions. For example, as the Washington State Supreme Court in State v. Redmond pointed out: “The law is well settled that there is no duty to retreat when a person is assaulted in a place where he or she has a right to be." Where someone has the “right to be” obviously extends well beyond just inside the home. In the same case, the court noted: "Redmond's right to be in the Lindbergh High School parking lot is not disputed."

As I wrote, the requirement to retreat "sometimes putting their lives in jeopardy." The problem is a practical one: whether a prosecutor agrees with the victim over whether they had retreated far enough.

As I wrote previously for Fox News: "a prosecutor might draw the line differently in whether a victim had retreated sufficiently. There have been many cases where victims have been chased and knocked down a couple of times before firing in self-defense, but prosecutors thought that the victim still could have done more to retreat before firing their gun." The third edition of More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2010) provides examples of this.

True, but very misleading. This is the problem in any murder case?

In the Zimmerman case, the court will have to use other evidence, not just Zimmerman’s words in establishing guilt or innocence. Forensic evidence included the wounds to the back of Zimmerman's head, broken nose, grass on his back, wetness on his back, and blood splatter patterns.

Despite Media Matters founder David Brock illegally using guns for his personal protection, Media Matters obviously won't accept that others are also concerned about their own safety. Law-abiding citizens are hardly the trigger-happy individuals the media paint them to be. With national surveys showing about 2 million defensive gun uses a year, the number of justifiable homicides is amazingly small.

Media Matters assumes that its readers won't actually read what I have written. So let me quote from my piece: "But part of that increase is just a trick of numbers; it occurs because the laws have reclassified what is considered 'self-defense,' not because more people are being shot."

In addition, I also note: "Curiously, though, this went unnoticed: Over the same period of time, there has been an increase in justifiable killings by police."

How is Media Matters then accurate to claim: “at no point does he provide his own theory about what is really behind the uptick.”

Presumably, Media Matters hopes that by refusing to post responses on their website that their readers will never learn the truth. But bullies deserved to be stood up to.

John Lott is a contributor and the co-author of the just released “Debacle: Obama's War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future” (John Wiley & Sons, March 2012).