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Racial bias and 'stand your ground' laws: what the data show

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The paper noted that the discrepancy was due in part to the fact that black shooting victims were more likely to be armed and in the process of committing a crime when shot. In the 11 cases that involved whites killing blacks or blacks killing whites, no discrepancy in conviction rates was apparent – four of five blacks who shot and killed a white person escaped punishment while five of six whites who killed a black person escaped punishment.

"What's going on [with protests against stand your ground] is just politics," says Clayton Cramer, a gun rights historian in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho. "The real tragedy in America is not racism, but something that's gone terribly wrong within the black community."

Yet it is that perception, more than the reality, that makes stand-your-ground laws vulnerable to racial bias, say others. The fact that jurors deemed Zimmerman justified in standing his ground – but not Trayvon – points to subtle prejudices, they suggest.

"I don't think they walked past that issue. I think they walked right up to it, and said, 'Yes, we call this reasonable,' " says Jody Armour, a law professor at the University of Southern California and author of "Negrophobia and Reasonable Racism: The Hidden Costs of Being Black in America."

'We've got to understand what 'reasonable' means in the context of a great fear of crime, of great fear of violence, and of great fear of black crime and violence," he says. "And you have it again and again: juries saying it's reasonable to take drastic measures to avert drastic harm from black males."

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