Defensive Gun Uses Happen Far More Often Than Homicides

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One thing we don’t hear the media talk much about is defensive gun use. Armed citizens use a firearm to protect themselves or others quite a bit–the actual numbers are unknown, but estimates vary from hundreds of thousands to millions per year–so you’d think this is something we’d hear a lot about in the media.


We don’t.

The fact that we don’t, though, is an interesting point worth discussing.

While Americans know that guns take many innocent lives every year, many don’t know that firearms also save them.

On May 15, an attacker at an apartment complex in Fort Smith, Ark., fatally shot a woman and then fired 93 rounds at other people before a man killed him with a bolt-action rifle. Police said he “likely saved a number of lives in the process.”

On June 30, a 12-year-old Louisiana boy used a hunting rifle to stop an armed burglar who was threatening his mother’s life during a home invasion.

On July 4, a Chicago gunman shot into a crowd of people, killing one and wounding two others before a concealed handgun permit holder shot and wounded the attacker. Police praised him for stepping in.

These are just a few of the nearly 1,000 instances reported by the media so far this year in which gun owners have stopped mass shootings and other murderous acts, saving countless lives. And crime experts say such high-profile cases represent only a small fraction of the instances in which guns are used defensively. But the data are unclear, for a number of reasons, and this has political ramifications because it seems to undercut the claims of gun rights advocates that they need to possess firearms for personal protection — an issue now before the Supreme Court.

Americans who look only at the daily headlines would be surprised to learn that, according to academic estimates, defensive gun uses — including instances when guns are simply shown to deter a crime — are four to five times more common than gun crimes, and far more frequent than the fewer than 20,000 murders each year, with or without a gun. But even when they prevent mass public shootings, defensive uses rarely get national news coverage. Those living in major news markets such as New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles are unlikely to hear of such stories.


Note the phrasing here. “[F]our to five times more common than gun crimes.” Not homicides, which are often the easiest numbers for us to find, but “gun crimes” as a whole.

This is critical information, information that needs to be included in the gun debate, to be sure. After all, if gun control is enforced, how many of these crimes will go in a different direction? Will those fewer than 20,000 homicides become more than 20,000? Will it become 30,000? More?

Obviously, there’s really no way to learn that definitively, but it does seem likely that the number of murders will increase as well the number of violent crimes across all categories.

After all, a lot of violent thugs use knives. They don’t get counted in the gun crime statistics for obvious reasons, yet they also come across armed citizens. Those are defensive gun uses as well, obviously, yet people often don’t even bother to call the police after such an incident. This is part of why it’s difficult to get exact numbers on defensive gun use.

Regardless, what we do know is that gun control will have an adverse impact on violent crime, especially if armed citizens are somehow prohibited from acting in self-defense.

Guns save lives, folks. It’s as clear as day. It’s just too bad the media won’t actually report the truth on the topic of defensive gun use. Then others might actually see what’s so clear to us.


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