More Deeply Flawed “Stand Your Ground” Research from JAMA

It seems that Dr. David K. Humphreys was never taught the first rule of finding yourself in a hole:  stop digging.  Dr. Humphreys has chosen to follow up his deeply flawed November 2016 “science” paper in the Journal of the American Association: Internal Medicine on Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law by publishing a response to criticism of that paper in the form of a “Research Letter” just published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The “Research Letter” is behind a firewall, but can be purchased/rented for $30 if anyone is interested.  I caution that it’s only about a page-and-a-paragraph in length, however, and interestingly enough JAMA Internal Medicine makes the whole first page plainly accessible by clicking here, so I’m not sure the last paragraph is worth the extra $30.  But it’s your money.

You may recall that I previously critiqued Humphreys’ November 2016 “Stand-Your-Ground” “science” paper published last November, “Evaluating the Impact of Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Self-defense Law on Homicide and Suicide by Firearm,” (pay-walled), in a piece I wrote at National Review, “What to Make of the New Study of Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law” (free).

The gist of my criticism is accurately recounted by Humphreys in his purportedly responsive “Research Letter”:

Results from our study of the influence of Florida’s “Stand Your Groundself-defense law on homicide and suicide by firearm1 have been questioned for not distinguishing between “unlawful” homicide (ie, murder) and “justifiable” homicide (ie, lawful use of lethal force).2,3

Readers have suggested that if the increase in homicide rates resulted from an increase in homicides that were justifiable, the law may be working as intended. We investigated this possibility by acquiring additional data and conducting new analyses.

In fact, nowhere in Dr. Humphrey’s “Research Letter” does he cite any actual “additional data” that supports any such “new analysis.”

As an interesting aside, footnote [2] cited above is purportedly a reference to a previous post I had published in National Review on Dr. Humphrey’s earlier deeply flawed “Stand-Your-Ground” paper.

  1. Branca A. What to make of the new study of Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Natl Rev. http://inresco.org/firearmsf/jama_junk_science.html. Published November 16, 2016. Accessed June 26, 2017.

It is notable however, that even the simple act of accurately citing others’ work apparently falls outside of Dr. Humphreys’ capabilities. The link Dr. Humphreys’ provides in footnote [2] is not to my post on National Review of the indicated title, but to a favorable third-party review of my post: “More JAMA Flim-Flam: Flawed Study Takes Aim at “Stand Your Ground.”

Curious.

In the very next paragraph, entitled “Methods,” Dr. Humphreys writes:

We obtained monthly counts of justifiable homicides, broadly defined as the killing of an assailant or intruder, during the commission of a criminal act, by a civilian, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.4,5

No kidding: the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Impressive.

Upon further examination, however, we find this claim to be misleading at best and outright false at worst. Specifically, footnotes [4] and [5] do not reference the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at all, but rather reference the FBI and the Violence Policy Center:

4. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice; 2004.

5. Violence Policy Center. Firearm Justifiable Homicides and Non-Fatal Self-defense Gun Use: An Analysis of Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Crime Victimisation Survey Data. Washington, DC: Violence Policy Center; 2015. http://www.vpc.org/studies/justifiable15.pdf. Accessed July 26, 2016.

So, no actual reference to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, much as the footnote referencing my National Review piece didn’t actually link to my National Review piece.

Curious.

Let’s continue by taking a closer look at the second of those two footnotes. Footnote [5] cites a research report from the Violence Policy Center.  Is this an unbiased source of data on this subject? Hardly. This outfit is a well-known anti-Second Amendment organization, with an explicit anti-“gun violence” bias, that advocates for increased restrictions on the ownership of firearms by law-abiding Americans and against the very Stand-Your-Ground policy under “study” by Dr. Humphreys. Yet Dr. Humphreys shares none of this relevant context with us.

Curious.

Furthermore, although this is the only cited data source in Dr. Humphrey’s entire “Research Letter,” the Violence Policy Center does not produce it’s own crime statistics data. Rather, the cited report merely repackages the actual crime data from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports. But the primary-source FBI UCR is itself readily and publicly accessible via their web site, with preliminary data through the first half of 2016, whereas the secondary-source Violence Policy Center study reports on data only through 2012. Why would Dr. Humphrey link to an interpretation of the UCR data from a biased secondary source limited to 2012 rather than make use of the primary UCR data itself through 2016?

Curious.

Even if we were to pretend that the Violence Prevention Center study’s data was unbiased and valid, we discover something remarkable when we look to the Florida justifiable homicide data—the very subject of Dr. Humphreys’ research–provided in that report: there isn’t any. Literally.

When one looks at “TABLE ONE: FIREARM JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDES BY STATE, 2008-2012” found on page 8 of the report, we see the states listed vertically and beside each state are columns listing the purported justified homicides for each state for the years 2008 to 2012 in a series of columns.

For the state of Florida, every column—all of them—is labeled “N/A.”

Further, footnote five in the Violence Prevention Center report states: “5 The state of Florida did not submit any data to the FBI Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) for the years 2008 through 2012,” the span of years covered by the report. So, the only cited source of even secondary data for Dr. Humphreys’ newest Florida justifiable homicide data analysis for this “Research Letter” literally contains no Florida justifiable homicide data. None.

Curious.

I would also note in passing that even if the Violence Prevention Center’s report did have data for Florida homicides, which it does not, the report covers only the period from 2008 through 2012, and thus would be useless in any analysis that purports to compare pre-2005 homicides with post-2005 homicides.

Curious.

Let’s now take a look at footnote [4], or more particularly the citation to the FBI UCR Handbook. Note that title carefully: FBI UCR Handbook. This is not the actual data-containing FBI Uniform Crime Report. Rather, this is the handbook intended to guide police departments in correctly gathering and reporting crime data to the FBI UCR. It is literally a procedural instructional manual.

There is not a single piece of crime data contained in the referenced document. As a result, as was the case with the Violence Policy Center report, it could not possibly have been the source for any of the purported data used in Dr. Humphreys purported statistical analysis. So why is it cited? Perhaps because it provides the working definition of justifiable homicide used by the FBI UCR.

Sure enough, when we look at pages 17-18 of the FBI UCR Handbook (2004) we find a discussion of what constitutes justifiable and non-justifiable homicide. Specifically, the Handbook provides a helpful illustration of a scenario that it says should not be reported as a justifiable homicide:

“The following scenario illustrates an incident known to law enforcement that reporting agencies would not consider Justifiable Homicide:

  1. While playing cards, two men got into an argument. The first man attacked the second with a broken bottle. The second man pulled a gun and killed his attacker. The police arrested the shooter; he claimed self-defense.”

With all respect to the FBI, this is simply mistaken. If you are having a mere verbal argument with somebody, and they decide to escalate matters to the point of attacking you with a broken bottle, they have become a deadly force aggressor against whom you would be lawfully entitled to use deadly-force in self-defense—including shooting and killing that attacker. Contrary to what the UCR states, this scenario would constitute a justifiable homicide, and it would do so in every state in the country.

In other words, the FBI UCR Handbook of 2004 apparently does not understand what does and does not constitute a justifiable homicide, and thus the data gathered on justifiable homicide using this handbook as the procedural standard is necessarily worthless.  By extension, to the extent Dr. Humphreys relied on this mistaken definition of justifiable homicide, he also does not understand what does and does not constitute a justifiable homicide, and thus his analysis based on data gathered using the FBI UCR Handbook definition is patently worthless.

Even if we set aside that profound misunderstanding of what constitutes justifiable homicide, however, there is another inherent characteristic of the FBI UCR that makes it almost useless for assessing justifiable homicides. That is the fact that the UCR is, as the name suggests, based on crime reports, and not on any final determination of whether a homicide was justified or not. This is a difference that matters, if reality matters at all, especially in the context of justifiable homicide.

Just because a police officer at a homicide scene believed that a use-of-force may not have been justified doesn’t mean that’s the final word on the matter. Indeed, it is very common for a defendant charged with a crime of violence—and thus by definition perceived by the arresting officer as having acted unlawfully—to later have the charges against him dropped by prosecutors, or to be acquitted at trial, precisely on the basis of lawful justification. In other words, the officer’s crime report of non-justifiable homicide was ultimately determined to be mistaken.

To illustrate: If I am attacked by a man in a parking lot, and I shoot and kill him, it’s very likely that I’m going to be arrested by police when they arrive in response to my 911 call, regardless of the merits of my self-defense claim. Many departments do this as simple policy, and so as not to task their officers with making a final legal determination of self-defense at the scene.   There’s been a shooting, I concede it was me who did the shooting, that’s probable cause for an arrest—let the lawyers handle the self-defense issues at their leisure, is how the thinking goes.

In my hypothetical case, sure enough, when the prosecutors look at the investigative report it seems a plain case of lawful self-defense, and the charges against me are dropped. Or, if I’m unlucky, I’m compelled to go to trial and get acquitted. In both of those cases, the final determination of my killing of that other person is that it was a justifiable homicide. How does the UCR reflect that final adjudication? It doesn’t. It goes by the initial crime report, and thus my use-of-force is incorrectly recorded by the UCR as an unjustified killing.

That’s not even considering whether a typical patrol officer tasked with the decision of making an arrest has the training and expertise to make a legal determination of lawful self-defense in the immediate aftermath of a use-of-force event and before the totality of the circumstances and evidence are likely to be known.

This challenge of relying on such sourcing of data as determinative was noted by the British economist Sir Josiah Stamp, in an observation that has since become known as “Stamp’s Law”:

The government are very keen on amassing statistics. They collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams. But you must never forget that every one of these figures comes in the first instance from the village watchman, who just puts down what he damn pleases.

Further, the FBI UCR data on homicides in Florida in particular is deeply defective for the years relevant to Dr. Humphreys’ “research.” Even beyond the utter absence of relevant data for Florida from 2008 to 2012, as already discussed above, economists out of George Mason University have found that Florida homicide data reporting to the UCR was either entirely unavailable or severely underreported from 1996 to 2005—in other words, for the full tens years of the pre-SYG period being compared by Dr. Humphreys to the post-SYG period.

Curious.

One wonders exactly what kind of peer review JAMA Internal Medicine conducted on this “Research Letter,” that a small-town lawyer in Colorado could so readily expose the deep flaws present in Dr. Humphrey’s research.

For shame, JAMA.

Law of Self Defense Podcast: August 23, 2017

Just posted up a new Law of Self Defense Podcast, which covers my recent guest appearance on the Concealed Carry Podcast.

If you’d prefer to listen to this file in audio-only format, click here to download that file.

Here are sources from which you can subscribe to our occasional podcasts and videocasts:

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Law of Self Defense Podcast: August 14, 2017

Just posted up a new Law of Self Defense Podcast, which covers my recent guest appearance on the Armed America Radio.

If you’d prefer to listen to this file in audio-only format, click here to download that file.

Here are sources from which you can subscribe to our occasional podcasts and videocasts:

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Seeklander Shout-Out to Law of Self Defense

Mike Seeklander, of American Warrior Society, was a guest on the Concealed Carry podcast, hosted by Riley Bowman, on August 9, 2017, and kindly gave a shout-out to Law of Self Defense when he was asked about other self-defense products/services he recommends. Thanks, Mike!  Here’s the audio of that shout-out:

You can listen to the entirety of that Concealed Carry podcast by clicking here.

Law of Self Defense Podcast: August 7, 2017

Just posted up a new Law of Self Defense Podcast, which covers my recent guest appearance on the Polite Society Podcast.

If you’d prefer to listen to this file in audio-only format, click here to download that file.

Here are sources from which you can subscribe to our occasional podcasts and videocasts:

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FBI Audience Feedback to LOSD Talk: 93% “Stellar”

Just got the feedback to my talk at the FBI National Academy yesterday: “Falsified Use-of-Force Narratives As Drivers of Civil Unrest and Hostility to Law Enforcement.” About an hour talk, then 30 minutes Q&A.

I talked about cases like George Zimmerman, Freddie Gray, Mike Brown, Philando Castile, Joseph Walker, Theodore Wafer, Marissa Alexander, etc. Controversial cases, in other words. There was some heated Q&A from a couple of the LEOs in the audience–well, the QUESTIONS were heated. My replies were not–I know when I’m speaking to an armed audience. 🙂

Anyway, just heard from the Special Agent who worked through the review cards. Of 59 in attendance:

55 “stellar”
1 “lukewarm”
3 “negative”

I’ll do better next time, assuming they have me back for a next time.

Shooting MP5 & Thompson at the FBI Academy

So yesterday afternoon was my talk to the FBI National Academy, ““Falsified Use-of-Force Narratives As Drivers of Civil Unrest and Hostility to Law Enforcement.” Maybe more on that later.

Thanks to Special Agent Neil Rogers of the FBI Firearms Training Unit in the morning I got to spend some time on the FBI ranges shooting some fun guns

This is a full-auto, integrally suppressed MP5 (9mm, natch). With a little practice it’s not at all heard to do a full-mag ammo dump into the down-zero area of an IDPA-style target.

Some video clips of me shooting the MP5:

Here is a prohibition-era Thompson, also full-auto. In single-shot mode it’s amazingly soft to shoot–perhaps not surprising given that it weighs something like 15 pounds. On full auto (yep, more ammo dumps) it CLIMBS up and right, HARD. Very difficult to control. Also, the rear site is pretty much vestigial. I will say that the 20 round stick magazines go empty FAST on full-auto.

Some video clips of me shooting the Thompson:

Finally, I also got to shoot the Bureau’s new handgun, the Glock 19M, but forgot to take pictures–sorry. Also, there are some internal technical details I don’t believe I’m permitted to share, but I can’t remember which ones, so I’m going to skip those entirely.

I will say that it is a FANTASTIC shooter. The trigger is fantastic. Under 5 pounds and a very clean break–none of that spongey-spongey-spongey take-up of the typical Glock trigger. Much shorter travel. The gun also feels much different in the hand than have other Glocks I’ve shot. It feels much like when I switched from the medium grip module to the small grip module on my 320. Also, the stippling is outstanding, without being too aggressive. The gun just locks into the hand. Shooting both practice and duty ammo (Gold Dot G2 147g) the gun (the 19-sized Glock as mentioned) was a very soft shooter. Really, the whole package is a delight. I’m told it may be a couple of years before they’re available on the civilian market, but when they are I certainly plan to pick one up.

LOSD Supports Adam Kraut for NRA Board … and You Should, Too

Hey folks,

Does it seem to you as if the NRA Board of Directors has been making some sub-optimal decisions as of late? It certainly seems that way to me, as a life-long NRA Life-Benefactor member, and I am to use my rights as a member to advocate for change.

The NRA remains the nation’s leading Second Amendment civil rights organization, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, nor that there isn’t room for improvement. Indeed, in some respects it seems that the NRA’s focus has shifted from maximizing the interests of their members to maximizing the interests of the organization itself. In other words, it seems as if the organization has become self-serving. And that’s bad for the members, and bad for the Second Amendment.

The gun culture has arguably been in version 2.0 for quite some years at this point, and I’d suggest we’re already in the process of transitioning into version 3.0. A self-serving NRA Board locked in version 1.0 is inadequate to our needs as a gun community and a nation.

A key part of the solution, to my mind, is getting some new, fresh blood on the NRA Board of Directors. One such candidate currently running for an NRA Board seat whom we support is Adam Kraut, and we urge all of you to take a look at what Adam has to say and consider supporting him, as well.

“Support” doesn’t mean money, Adam’s not asking for a dime. What he DOES need, however, are signatures for his position for nomination to get himself listed on the NRA ballot. You do need to be an NRA Member (you ARE, aren’t you?), and that’s sufficient qualification for you to sign the petition. That petition, with instructions, and some background information on Adam are embedded below.

If you’d care to not just sign the petition yourself but also collect a few additional signatures, as well, I’m sure Adam would be appreciative.

Thanks for your attention and consideration, folks. As promised, here’s that petition and information packet. More information on Adam can also be found by clicking here.

–Andrew

Look who got mentioned on Instapundit!

I’m humbled to note that Instapundit, in the personage of Helen Smith (aka “Instawife”), has kindly done an IN THE MAIL post for “The Law of Self Defense, 3rd Edition.”

Click here to see the Instapost!

Thanks, Helen! And don’t forget, you and Glenn are welcome to come as my guest to my next Law of Self Defense LEVEL 1 Class: TN & KY being held in Nashville on September 16. Details here: lawofselfdefense.com/nashville

Student Feedback to LOSD LEVEL 2 Class: Louisiana

This past weekend we held a Law of Self Defense LEVEL 2: Louisiana classes in New Orleans, LA.  These were graciously hosted by NOLATAC Training & Consulting.

We’ve now gathered our feedback from students, and as has become our practice are sharing it here. (As always, we respect all requests for anonymity from our students.)

Specific case studies that spoke to concept driven elements of the law in LA as a compliment to the Level 1 course. The Level 2 class takes a deep dive into specific cases in the focus state, often about local cases familiar to the attendees, that provide real incidents to the topics and concepts discussed in Level 1. Level 2 allows participants to “pick apart” these cases with the benefits of actual facts to learn how to find the various elements previously discussed instead of using vague hypotheticals. At the same time, I was made aware of several very unique nuances in our law that I was unaware of and are pivotal to sound defensive decision making.
–Brannon L.

Small enough to be given individual attention and Andrew didn’t talk over our heads. Certainly had his ducks in a row—well organized even when we would interrupt his thought process during a point he was making.. Extremely knowledgeable.
–Ron D.

Andrew was considerate and patient in explaining detail. Andrew’s class is more than worth the investment, and ought to be considered a requirement for anyone who carries a firearm.
–Rolf P.

Very informative and interesting, lots of info. Have taken other legal classes, this one by far was the most informitave, practical, and interesting. The group was kept engaged the whole time.
–Barry H.

Most liked Andrew’s ability to translate legalese into plain English and illustrate examples to apply the principles. I’m a graduate of the Instructor’s Program, and taking the Level 1 and 2 Louisiana seminars were valuable in filling in the gaps and answering some questions I still had concerning my state’s laws and interpretations. Absolutely invaluable.
–Anonymous

Liked the personalized interaction and quick articulation. I had first started getting interested into the legal theory concerning homicide and justifiable homicide while discussing the Zimmerman case and found myself unable to articulate some points or not sure what arguments were valid. I started by studying Branca’s blogging about the case and eventually read Massad Ayoob’s Deadly Force, for a general understanding of self defense legal theory. While the books and blog posts gave me a decent understanding I felt I still lacked an in depth understanding of the structural arguments. Now with this class, I’ve a fair bit of confidence that I can discuss the issue of self defense and be both accurate and precise in my arguments. Or if, heaven forbid, I get involved in a use of force incident, I’ll have acted legally and will be able to support my actions as such.
–Les B.

We expect NOLATAC will be inviting us back in 2018! If you’d like to find a Law of Self Defense Class in your area, simply click here. If you don’t see a class near you, you might consider hosting a class yourself or asking a local gun store or instructor if they’d be interested in hosting a class. Hosts attend free, and typically make several hundred dollars in revenue share. Click here for more information on hosting.