During Sunday’s episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver painted Stand Your Ground laws asa cause of increased violence in some states and said they benefit white people whom he suggests have an inherent fear of black Americans.
Stand Your Ground laws are designed to place the onus on the aggressor in a situation where an innocent person comes under attack and believes his or her life is in jeopardy. In such a situation, Stand Your Ground laws shield would-be victims for using lethal force to save innocent life.
Oliver summed up the origins of Stand Your Ground at the beginning of the segment by noting that the statutes “were originally pitched as a law and order measure to protect people forced to make difficult decisions in impossible life or death situations.” But he quickly segued into “racial disparities in who [Stand Your Ground laws] do and don’t protect.”
Oliver tied Stand Your Ground to George Zimmerman early in the segment, claiming that Zimmerman wasn’t immediately arrested in the Trayvon Martin shooting because of Stand Your Ground. He again referenced Zimmerman and Martin mid-segment by claiming, “Following the killing of Trayvon Martin, [Stand Your Ground laws] became increasingly controversial.”
Ironically, at no point during the segment did Oliver mention that an appeal to Florida’s Stand Your Ground was not part of Zimmerman’s defense. ABC News noted that when Zimmerman was “acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin, the public outrage was often directed or misdirected, at the Florida [Stand Your Ground] law.” However, ABC News explained that Zimmerman’s defense rested on “basic self defense” rather than Stand Your Ground.
Oliver cited figures from 2013 Urban Institute report claiming “the expansion of Stand Your Ground laws…appears to worsen the disparity” regarding whose fear is believed when conflicting claims are made between people of different races. He went on to claim “multiple examples” where a Stand Your Ground law would seem applicable but was not because of what appeared to be a race-based interpretation.
He then played a video of Ohio State Rep. Stephanie Howse (D) opposing her state’s Stand Your Ground law by suggesting such laws immediately work against certain minorities. Howse said, “When your presence, when your being, your blackness, causes fear, do you hear what I’m saying?”
Oliver then claimed: “That is one of the things that makes [Stand Your Ground] laws so dangerous. They can exalt a white person’s fear over a black person’s life.”
However, Stand Your Ground laws have actually proven to benefit the very minorities whom Oliver claims they harm.
For example, on September 9, 2016, Breitbart News reported data from John Lott’s book, The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies, which showed that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law benefited black people more than white people.
“From 2005 through October 1, 2014, blacks made up 16.7 percent of Florida’s population and 34 percent of the defendants who invoked Stand Your Ground. Black defendants who invoke this statute are actually acquitted four percentage points more frequently that whites who use this very same defense.”
John Oliver also failed to mention how black Americans in some of America’s most dangerous neighborhoods benefit from Stand Your Ground Laws.
As John Lott noted, “Blacks living in high-crime urban areas are the most likely victims of violent crime and the most likely beneficiaries of Stand Your Ground laws.”
John Oliver suggested that Stand Your Ground laws exist in 30 U.S. states, but they actually exist in 35. On March 3, 2021, Breitbart News noted that Arkansas became the 35th state to adopt Stand Your Ground.
AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him at email@example.com. You can sign up to get Down Range at breitbart.com/downrange.
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