Disarming the Myths Promoted By the Gun Control Lobby
National violent crime rates that soared for 30 years from the early 1960s
began to decrease markedly since 1993. Last December the FBI reported
that murder and other violent crime rates fell again by 6.4% during the first
half of 2011 compared with the same period in 2010. A Gallup poll indicates that
“Americans’ preference regarding gun laws is generally that the government enforce
existing laws more strictly and not pass new laws.”
A widely-known study conducted by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz in the 1990s found that there
were somewhere between 830,000 and 2.45 million U.S. defensive gun uses annually. A
National Crime Victimization Study (NCVS) which asked victims if they had used a gun in
self-defense found that about 108,000 each year had done so. A big problem with the NCVS
line of survey reasoning, however, is that it only includes those uses where a citizen kills
a criminal, not when one is only wounded, is held by the intended victim until police
arrive, or when brandishing a gun caused a criminal to flee.
In fact, the overwhelming majority of the successful self-defense outcomes are those
where the defendants’ guns are presented but never fired.
Cato researchers investigated published news reports which much more often reveal how
Americans use guns in self-defense. The data set is derived from a collection of nearly
5,000 randomly selected incidents published between October 2003 and November 2011. Still,
the authors also recognize limitations with this approach, since many defensive incidents
are never reported by victims, or when they are, never get published. In fact, the
overwhelming majority of the successful self-defense outcomes are those where the
defendants’ guns are presented but never fired.
Most of the actual self-defense shootings in the Cato study didn’t involve concealed carry
licenses, but more typically had to do with responses to residential invasions. Of these,
488 involved home burglaries. In addition, there were 1,227 incidents where intruders
were induced to flee the scene by armed inhabitants, circumstances that might
otherwise have resulted in injurious assaults including rapes and murders. There were 285
news accounts indicating that the defender had a concealed weapon license, which in the
majority of these incidents took place outside a home or place of business. Pizza delivery
drivers were common robbery targets.
Whereas gun control proponents often argue that having a gun put people at risk because a
criminal will take it away and use it against them, it seems the reality is more often to be
the reverse situation. The Cato data contains only 11 stories out of 4,699 where a criminal
took a gun away from a defender, but 277 where the intended victim disarmed the bad guy,
although the authors acknowledge that these event reports may be printed more frequently
due to newsworthiness.
Still, it should also be remembered that the threatened party often has more motivation to
fight back than a criminal hoping for an easy score. There were 25 news reports where armed
rape attack victims ultimately got the upper hand, and 65 where this occurred in carjacking
Then there is the argument that more private gun ownership will lead to more accidents
because the average citizen isn’t sufficiently trained to use a weapon defensively. While gun
accidents do occur, the Cato study indicates that they are the most overstated risks. There
were 535 accidental firearms deaths in 2006 within a population of almost 300 million
people. Although every lost life is tragic, the proportion is not particularly startling.
On the other hand, Newsweek has reported that law-abiding American citizens using guns in
self-defense during 2003 shot and killed two and one-half times as many criminals as police
did, and with fewer than one-fifth as many incidents as police where an innocent person
mistakenly identified as a criminal (2% versus 11%).
***Finally, on the subject of public safety, just how well have gun bans worked in other
countries? Take the number of home break-ins while residents are present as an indication.
In Canada and Britain, both with tough gun-control laws, nearly half of all
burglaries occur when residents are present. But in the U.S. where many households are
armed, only about 13% happen when someone is home.
Doesn’t this comparison offer some indication that criminals are getting the message? Don’t
you wish those bent on eliminating our Second Amendment rights would also?