Anti-Second Amendment activists love to tout certain numbers. They throw out the total number of people killed with a gun, even if it’s by their own hand. They love to scream these numbers until they’re blue in the face as if that alone is sufficient reason to curtail the rights of law-abiding Americans.
But as Paul Hsieh at Forbes argues, there are some numbers the gun control crowd tends to ignore. In fact, he mentions them in the context of three principles that researchers and analysts should remember.
The first principle is:
Firearms save lives as well take lives.
If one imagines that guns in civilian hands are used solely as murder weapons, it makes sense to ban or strictly regulate them.
But millions of Americans legally carry a firearm every day, and most cite self-defense as their primary reason. The overwhelming majority of the time, those guns are never drawn in anger. But innocent civilians can and do sometimes use their guns in self-defense. Any discussion of firearms policy must acknowledge the lives saved by legal use of guns as well as the lives lost by criminal use.
The numbers of defensive gun uses (DGUs) each year is controversial. But one study ordered by the CDC and conducted by The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine and National Research Council reported that, “Defensive use of guns by crime victims is a common occurrence”:
Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million, in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008.
Another study estimates there are 1,029,615 DGUs per year “for self-protection or for the protection of property at home, work, or elsewhere” excluding “military service, police work, or work as a security guard,” (within the range of the National Academies’ paper), yielding an estimate of 162,000 cases per year where someone “almost certainly would have been killed” if they “had not used a gun for protection.”
(In comparison, there were 11,208 homicide deaths by firearm in the US in 2012. There were a total of 33,636 deaths due to “injury by firearms,” of which the majority were suicides, 21,175.)
I advise you to go and read the whole thing. Hseih knocked it out of the park and, because it’s Forbes, people are less likely to dismiss the source than some other places. He brings up some excellent points besides this one.
However, here he really says something I’ve been saying for a while. Gun grabbers like to argue “If it saves one life…” and other such things, but the counterpoint is that guns are used to save many times more lives than take them. Saving one life is great, but if it costs four more lives in the process, is that a good thing?
If you look at it from a cool, analytical standpoint, the answer is “no.” It shouldn’t be.
Obviously, all that changes when the one life is someone you care about, which is why anti-gunners will try to frame it where it’s your daughter or son, husband or wife. Any way to make it personal. But that’s not how we make laws. We don’t make laws to protect an individual. We make laws to protect as many people as possible. We have to look at their ramifications impersonally, even if we don’t want to.
As such, saving one life but losing two is a bad bet and one we should never place money on.