Archive for July, 2012

A renaissance for Uncle Joe?

July 9, 2012

The United States has never done anything so ghastly as the “Great Purge” in the Soviet Union, in which hundreds of thousands of politically undesirable people were killed in the 1930s. However, you begin to understand why Stalin tired of trials and went straight to executions when you hear a former Congressman favor targeted killings because they avoid courtroom costs.

Andrew Gelman on “Stand Your Ground” laws

July 1, 2012

Andrew Gelman posted the results of a paper arguing that “Stand Your Ground” laws do not reduce crime and in fact increase homicides. Stand Your Ground laws remove your responsibility to retreat from an attacker if you are in a place you have a legal right to be.

I like Andrew’s blog but he said something I found distressing, which was:

Andrew Gelman: … even if Stand Your Ground laws really did increase homicides, I could imagine people still supporting the laws on the grounds that some of these homicides were justifiable.

To which I responded:

I could imagine that also, and they’d be wrong.

You (or whoever defends this) are equivocating between two different senses of “justification,” and that is 1) I am within my rights to do X; and 2) X is good. I am within my rights to shoot someone who I believe is attacking me with deadly force, but this is different from saying it is good that they are shot, because that is false. I am within my rights not to put anything in the collection plate, but this is not good.

Gelman also denies that the intent of Stand Your Ground laws is to reduce homicides, and that it is really aimed at legalizing violence that was once criminal. Other commenters on his site pointed out that Stand Your Ground laws are often sold to the public on the assumption they will deter crime.