Examining the Race Effects of Stand Your Ground Laws

Statement of Commissioner Gail Heriot in Examining the Race Effects of Stand Your Ground Laws and Related Issues, a report of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

 My fellow commissioners were disappointed that the staff’s independent empirical research didn’t support their preconceived beliefs … so they buried it. Read my dissenting opinion here.  

On April 6, 2020, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights published a long-delayed report entitled Examining the Race Effects of Stand Your Ground Laws and Related Issues. This Statement is a part of that report.

The report is unusual in the sense that (apart from individual Commissioner Statements) it consists solely of a five year-old briefing transcript. It contains no original analysis, findings or recommendations.

It was not supposed to be that way. When the Commission undertook this project, the plan was for the Commission to conduct empirical research on “Stand Your Ground” laws and to produce a report containing both that research and a discussion of “Stand Your Ground” laws based in part on the testimony produced at the briefing but also on the Commission staff’s independent research. Alas, when the empirical research did not support the preconceived view of the Commission’s majority that “Stand Your Ground” laws harm African Americans, the project was shelved. Years later—at a time the Commission was interested in getting out as many reports as possible—it decided to publish a transcript of the briefing along with Commissioner Statements. After almost two further years of delay, the report was finally published.

This individual Statement details how the Commission did not understand long history of “Stand Your Ground” laws and misconceived their racial impact.