Monday, August 17, 2009

Legitimate Shooting in Houston

Our frequent commenter Reputo, who runs a wonderful blog replete with elaborate charts and in-depth analysis, has pointed out that I rarely (never?) post about a defensive shooting that I think is legitimate. Well, I plead guilty as charged and in an attempt to correct matters I visited another wonderful site called Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog, run my Clayton Cramer.

Clayton's most recent post comes from Houston Texas,

It was amazingly fast. Security video released to 11 News showed Iqbal behind the elevated counter, when the would-be robbers rush the store.

Two men with bandanas covering their faces, the leader gun in hand, vaulted over the case.

But in the five seconds that it took, Iqbal was already around the corner in the back, gun in hand.

“I see that guy come in the back pointing a gun. I just started shooting,” Iqbal says.

The two men were just inches apart, arms and guns extended. Iqbal fired three times, hitting 34-year-old Bryan Thorn.

Now that's what I call a legitimate shooting. One bad guy dead, the other got away, store owner and his family, who were in the store at the time, all safe and sound. It turned out that Bryan Thorn had been in and out of prison, a repeat offender. Naturally Mr. Iqbal was not charged with anything.

But, how common is this? Gun enthusiasts claim it's very common. Some believe there are 2.5 million incidents of defensive gun use per year. Even considering that the majority of those incidents do not involve shots fired, the simple brandishing of the weapon, they say, frightens off the would-be rapist or murderer, I don't believe the numbers could possibly be that high.

Clayton Cramer's site, which is often referenced as the unofficial repository of these stories, contains many which I don't think qualify. This one for example, is a case in which the victim takes the gun from the criminal and turns the tables on him. I wouldn't include that on a site dedicated to showing how armed civilians protect themselves. The hero in this story wasn't armed until he took the gun from the stupid crook, a manoeuver which probably fails more often than it succeeds.

Another recent entry was this one, coincidentally also in Houston, in which the store owner shot unarmed assailants, killing one. I had plenty to say about it, basically that I wouldn't consider it as qualifying for a list of legitimate defensive shootings.

But, even if every entry on the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog were legitimate, how many are there? An average of two or three a day makes less than 1,000 per year. Are the other 2,499,000 all incidents of brandishing? Does Mr. Cramer only publish one out of every 200,000 such incidents?

My opinion is that these defensive incidents are much rarer than our pro gun friends would like to believe. I think our gun friends suffer from the very human tendency towards self-justifying rationalization. My own surfing of the internet, which includes twenty or thirty sources of news, almost never uncovers these stories, while every single site has multiple stories of gun violence. Although not a scientific survey by any means, I think the reason for this is simply that defensive incidents happen at a ratio of 1/100 or even 1/200 of the misuse of guns.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.


  1. I don't believe the numbers could possibly be that high.

    My opinion is that these defensive incidents are much rarer than our pro gun friends would like to believe.

    See that is the difference between us MikeB. YOU simply "believe" or it is your "opinion".....we have looked at the evidence.

    That is what adults do instead of trying to use make believe to get their way

  2. Like I've said before ... if you look at the FBI's UCR on the statistics of justified homicides vs. murders, it doesn't support a 100:1 ratio at all. The absolute worst ratio you could come up with is 69:1 from the raw data, but even minimal review of the rest of the data proves that to be unreasonable. Why do you keep throwing out grossly inflated anti-gun owner numbers when you've been shown actual facts?

    But talk to some street cops sometime, at least in a state like Colorado where gun ownership is common. They've all been to many situations where a citizen was holding someone at gun point or had faced off with a criminal -- few of which made it into the news because there was no blood shed and reporters never looked in to it.

    The 2.5 million number I'm pretty sure is based on some aggressive statistics. Based on 90 million gun owners and probably the fact that some tiny percent live in places where they face off with someone more than 1x per year (I've never had to actually face off with anyone in my life, though on a couple of occasions in my 30 years of adult gun ownership I have grabbed a gun before checking something out) ... it's not an impossible number at all.

    And the anti-gun Clinton administration did a survey, and even they found tens of thousands of defensive gun uses a year.

    It's certainly a justifiable debate as to whether the empowerment of an armed society has an unacceptable cost ... but it is not debatable that firearms ownership empowers many thousands of people a year to protect themselves from violent situations. That's just an easily provable fact for anyone who takes the time to look into it.

  3. Something to keep in mind MikeB...

    You have approximately 10 progunners who frequently comment on your site. A cross section of the gun owning community due to randomness alone.

    I've already shared the fact that I have used a firearm against a charging black bear to, what I have absolutely no doubt, save my life.

    Grizzly's get all the media glitz, but the fact remains that black bears are the most aggressive, the most likely to attack and the most likely to kill human victims.

    But I would never be so bold as to say that since I, 1 out of your 10 progunners, have used a firearm in legitimate self defense, that 10% of gun owners have done so.

    But this ties many aspects of your question together. I never called the cops and told them a black bear charged me. I never called Fish and Wildlife to tell them. I never called the local newpaper to see if they wanted to run a story. I didn't tell anyone.

    Truth be told, I waited 23 years to tell my own Mother about what happened that day. I didn't want her to worry about me when I was out camping.

    Lotsa stuff happens out there in the big bad world that never gets reported to the authorities for a myriad of reasons.

    I try my best to not engage in conjecture because of its very nature. But I have no doubt that I would have died at the age of 14 had I not had a lowly .22 rifle with me that day.

    Rather than the respectful back and forth we enjoy here on Al Gores' interweb tubes, I would be quite absent due to me being a very old lump of bear poop in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains.

    I've never had to draw down on any 2-legged critter, but I have drawn down on no less than three 4-legger
    critters in my days. Twice to save myself and once to save my 3-legged cat.

    She can fight pretty good for a 3-legged cat, but not much of a match for a Rottwieller.

    The strong should protect the weak. Species really doesn't factor into the equation at my home.

    In order for this to work, the strong must first protect themselves.

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys. I agree that many incidents don't get reported. For this reason, Prof. Kleck had to do exactly what Bob keeps complaining about. This is why there's a big gray area open to interpretation. It's not all black and white.

    When I do it, Bob tries to ridicule me, saying I'm into "make-believe." But, when Kleck does it, it's scientific extrapolation. The problem is many people don't agree with Kleck's findings just like many don't like my theories. So, where's that leave us? I say it leaves us with a good lively discussion on our hands, one in which there's no need for name-calling and personal attacks.

  5. mikeb,

    The reason you are accused of make-believe is because all your theories are simply made up. You have no basis for your 10% or 1:200 numbers. If you dispute Kleck then you can go to his research and criticize his methods.

    What you do is not research in any sense of the imagination. If, instead of reading one story and finding that it supports your preconcieved notion, you did a compilation of news stories (both pro and con) and presented that, then you might have a leg to stand on. The second thing you could do is explain how refuted statistics are wrong (for instance you say DGUs are 1:200 compared to criminal use, Little Steve has shown you data that it couldn't be more than 1:69, how is he wrong and you right? - I am more than willing to point out when pro-gunners opinions are faulty based on the facts).

    When people use facts it is not a matter of opinion. How they interpret those facts may be, but the facts are facts. You have repeatedly ignored facts or questioned their integrity (and then later cited the same facts). So to say that you live in the land of make-believe is being polite.

  6. Actually, simple logic will tell you that there are many more instances of "brandishing" of a firearm preventing crime than are reported. I think we can all agree that all gun crime is reported by the media. Even shootings where no one is injured are reported to the police and then become a statistic. Meanwhile, just showing a concealed carry handgun is enough to deter a crime. It has happened to me. Followed from my office late at nite to my car, I made a show of not being able to find my keys and as I emptied my pockets, I just happened to put my handgun on top of my briefcase. The gang just crossed to the other side of the street and went on their way.

    In addition, you cannot just stop at gun violence. In the UK, the latest craze is waiting for footballers to be out of the country playing UEFA competitons. Usually their homes have elaborate security systems, but if the family is home, they don't turn it on. So gang break into the house, hold the family as they ransack the place, then leave. That doesn't happen much in states with liberal gun laws because breaking into a house with people in is a great way to lose your life.

  7. TomB, Thanks for the comment and that dramatic description of the time you scared off the gang by showing your gun.

    Are you of the opinion that things like that happen millions of times a year?

    If you are, fine, but why is it that when I do things like that - estimate, extrapolate, imagine, think, use common sense - I'm accused of doing make-believe and living in a fantasy world? Are only you gun guys allowed to do that, the way Kleck did?

  8. MikeB,

    Kleck did a scientific survey and then using accepted statistical methods used those results to project the results for the whole population.

    This is the same methodology that is used in elections, both prior to election night and on election night to project the expected winner. It is verifiable, it is usually accurate to a specified percentage.

    You've done nothing like that! Nothing!

    You've taken isolated stories from the news and decided that 10% of the gun owners in the population are going to commit a crime.

    That is guessing, it isn't a valid sampling survey. It isn't using accepted statistical methods.

    What is hard to understand about that?

  9. For the umpteenth time, Kleck didn't make stuff up out of whole cloth. He did a survey. Every DGU report is done by survey. From that survey, they extrapolate (based on the survey results) to what the whole population is like. Your extrapolation is looking at one or two news stories, and then deciding that all of the surveys done by others must be wrong. That is making stuff up. If you don't agree with Kleck's (or anyone else's) methodology, then elucidate what you find wrong with it. If you are just going to dismiss it because it doesn't agree with your view of the world, don't be suprised when we say you are making stuff up.

    With 400,000 firearm crimes reported to police, your 1:200 figure would mean that there are only 2,000 DGUs per year. Clayton's site has 1,000 per year, which usually involve firing the firearm or commission of a crime (guy broke into house and then ran off when confronted by homeowner with gun, no shots fired). Several commenters have related stories where a gun deterred a crime. Your response:
    "My own surfing of the internet, which includes twenty or thirty sources of news, almost never uncovers these stories, while every single site has multiple stories of gun violence."
    Experiences like Tom's (which are probably the most common DGUs and only going to be counted by doing a survey of a sample of the population) will NEVER make the news, come on think of how that would read - "A man fumbled with his keys while getting into his car and had to put his firearm on his briefcase. Meanwhile, a group of youths crossed to the other side of the street." Sorry, that isn't going to sell newspapers. Besides, you question the motives of news stories where the person fires, why not question Tom'
    s motives.
    "Did he know that the group was going to jump him? Maybe he should have waited until they started attacking him? Perhaps they were parked in the car next to him? There was really no reason for Tom to overreact and pull his gun, so this shouldn't count as a defensive gun use."
    Now that you have finally admitted to 1 legitimate DGU, let's see if you are willing to apply the same standard you use for DGU news stories to the DGUs that are reported on your site. Are any of the DGUs that commenters reported to you illegitimate?