Article published Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at Fox News.

Media Matters, 'Stand Your Ground' and me

By John R. Lott, Jr.

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.

1) “Lott opens his piece by stating, “Call them what you will: 'Stand Your Ground' or 'Castle Doctrine' laws.” In doing so, he is grouping together two laws that are in fact radically different - this faulty conflation is at the center of his entire argument."

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.

2) "For example, Lott later claims that 'In states adopting Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine laws from 1977 to 2005, murder rates fell by 9% and overall violent crime by 11%.' But 'Stand Your Ground' largely was not implemented until after 2005, making his point meaningless. But "Stand Your Ground" largely was not implemented until after 2005, making his point meaningless." [Emphasis added.]

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).

3) "While Lott would like his readers to believe that "Stand Your Ground" is a mainstay of American legal tradition . . . "

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."

4) "Actually states that did require duty to retreat largely did so only under the narrow circumstance where the victim could do sosafely."

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.

5) “Lott's dubious legal analysis continues with the statement, “The supposedly infamous laws passed in Florida and elsewhere, in contrast, use a 'reasonable person' standard for determining when it is proper to defend oneself -- requiring that a reasonable person would believe that another individual intends to inflict serious bodily harm or death on them.” Of course what Lott fails to mention is that the elimination of the duty to retreat often means that "Stand Your Ground" confrontations end with only one surviving witness to attest to the reasonableness of using deadly force: the shooter himself.”

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.

6) "In Florida there were 43 cases of justifiable homicide in 2005. By 2009, the last year that complete figures were available, the number had risen to 105. The very data cited by Lott confirms this trend is mirrored nationwide. But while Lott criticizes the media for implying causality between "Stand Your Ground" laws and rise in justifiable homicides, at no point does he provide his own theory about what is really behind the uptick..."

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 R. Lott Jr. is a contributor. He is an economist and co-author of "Debacle: Obama's War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future.".

Home (description of book, downloadable data sets, and discussions of previous controversies)

Academic papers:

Social Science Research Network

Book Reviews:

For a list of book reviews on The Bias Against Guns, click here.

List of my Op-eds

Posts by topic

Appalachian law school attack

Baghdad murder rate

Arming Pilots

Fraudulent website pretending to be run by me

The Merced Pitchfork Killings and Vin Suprynowicz's quote

Ayres and Donohue

Stanford Law Review

Mother Jones article


Craig Newmark

Eric Rasmusen

William Sjostrom

Dr. T's

Interview with National Review Online

Lyonette Louis-Jacques's page on Firearms Regulation Worldwide

The End of Myth: An Interview with Dr. John Lott

Cold Comfort, Economist John Lott discusses the benefits of guns--and the hazards of pointing them out.

An interview with John R. Lott, Jr. author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws

Some data not found at

Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack

Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

Data set from USA Today, STATA 7.0 data set

"Do" File for some of the basic regressions from the paper