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The real cost of gun rights in America

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Our Second Amendment rights are under assault. We’re being told our gun rights don’t matter, only the false sense of security we might get after some kind of gun control is passed.

People see Uvalde and they think, “Never again.” It’s a normal response to such a horrible tragedy.

One big issue, though, is that though gun control is often touted as the answer to any and all questions, most guns are used lawfully. In fact, thousands of crimes are prevented because of gun rights.

I checked online and found some fascinating numbers. A good website with footnotes and references to authoritative sources is GunFacts.info. There I learned the following:

  • Guns prevent an estimated 2.5 million crimes a year, or 6,849 every day. Most often, the gun is never fired, and no blood (including the criminal’s) is shed.
  • Every year, 400,000 life-threatening violent crimes are prevented using firearms.
  • 60 percent of convicted felons admitted that they avoided committing crimes when they knew the victim was armed. Forty percent of convicted felons admitted that they avoided committing crimes when they thought the victim might be armed.
  • Felons report that they avoid entering houses where people are at home because they fear being shot.
  • Fewer than 1 percent of firearms are used in the commission of a crime.

If you doubt the objectivity of the site above, it’s worth pointing out that the Center for Disease Control, in a report ordered by President Obama in 2012 following the Sandy Hook Massacre, estimated that the number of crimes prevented by guns could be even higher—as many as 3 million annually, or some 8,200 every day.

Another excellent source of information on this topic (and many more current issues) is the Gun Control page at JustFacts.org. (Full disclosure: I serve on the board of directors of JustFacts because I believe in the organization’s objectiveness, accuracy, and integrity.)

Now, many of us have seen these numbers before.

Yet I opted to go look at JustFacts.org to see what I could find there. If they are objective and accurate, then I should be able to see that pretty clearly.

When I looked at their data on crime and self-defense, here’s what I found.

* Based on survey data from the U.S. Department of Justice, roughly 6.4 million violent crimes were committed in the United States during 2019.[18] [19] These include simple/aggravated assaults, robberies, sexual assaults, rapes, and murders.[20] [21] Of these, about 600,000 or 9% were committed by offenders visibly armed with a gun.[22]

* Based on survey data from a 2000 study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology,[23] U.S. civilians use guns to defend themselves and others from crime at least 989,883 times per year.[24]

Now, that’s an interesting bit of data, listed so closely together.

In other words, we know that roughly 600,000 violent crimes involved someone visibly armed with a firearm. Meanwhile, this particular survey found nearly a million armed citizens protected themselves with a firearm.

That means the number of “gun crimes” would likely skyrocket if we were somehow denied the ability to defend ourselves. By now much? That’s actually difficult to say. At least some of those 600,000 crimes mentioned previously would also have been met with a good guy with a gun counted among that nearly a million defensive gun uses.

But not nearly all of them. In fact, not even most of them.

So there’s every reason to believe that gun rights preserve hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of lives each and every year. Those are lives that will be lost more and more often with each additional layer of gun control.

In the wake of the shooting in Uvalde, it’s normal to want to do something. Believe me, I get it. However, as tragic as that shooting was, any policy would need to be balanced against a number of factors. One, obviously, is our gun rights. Another needs to be whether the proposed policies would do more harm than good.

Gun control costs people their lives. That’s just the plan, unvarnished truth.

Jun 25, 2022 12:30 PM ET