Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Case Against Gary Kleck

from the Salon article The answer is not more guns

If Lott’s work can be discarded, the other key evidence for the more guns, less crime camp comes from criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, whose work in the 1990s argued that there are between 800,000 and 2.5 million defensive uses of guns in America every year. The number has been widely touted by gun-rights activists, but strongly criticized by other scholars.
Indeed, studies commissioned by the Department of Justice using different sets of more rigorous data put the number at 83,000 or 108,000, alternatively. In his essay, Goldberg quickly abandons the 2.5 million figure and seems to settle on the 108,000 level, which is 23 times lower than the Kleck-Gertz top number.

Harvard economist David Hemenway has been especially critical of Kleck-Gertz, pointing out “serious methodological deficiencies” in their numbers. The data came from a national telephone survey of 5,000 households, which found that about .6 percent said they had used guns to defend themselves in the past year. Assuming that proportion held true for all Americans households, they extrapolated from their sample to find the 2.5 million figure.

Beyond the mathematical issues with that approach, and sampling problems in their survey, Hemenway said the researchers were too credulous in believing respondents. For instance, he pointed to a poll that found that 6 percent of Americans said they had had personal contact with aliens. “The ABC News/Washington Post data on aliens are as good as or better,” Hemenway quipped.
But perhaps the biggest problem with the Kleck-Gertz numbers is that one person’s self-defense is another person’s murder, as the case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin demonstrated. Hemenway and a colleague conducted their own survey and then asked five criminal court judges to review their data to determine the legality of the incidents of defensive gun use reported by respondents. “A majority of the reported self-defense gun uses were rated as probably illegal by a majority of judges,” they found.

The conclusion: “Guns are used to threaten and intimidate far more often than they are used in self-defense.”


  1. Since you posted it, can we agree on 108,000 defensive gun uses per annum? Note that this is about equal to the total number of deaths and injuries from firearms due to all causes and is about seven times the number of murders.

    1. Why not, Mikeb? The Department of Justice isn't good enough for you? This is inexplicable, and we know what that implies.


      See pages 4-5. National Crime Victims Survey agrees with 108,000 numbers. NCVS number is also a huge lowball figure; and under represents "defensive gun uses" (DGUs).

    3. No, it far over-estimates them. For one reason, no matter how you cut it, when 95% of your numbers are undocumented and based on the shooter's version of what when down, it's unreliable to say the least. For another reason, none of these estimates take into consideration that when you get down to your final number, some percentage of them are false. Many incidents, especially the brandishing kind in which no shots are fired, were not necessary and therefore not defensive, Some of them were actually criminal, yet you count them.

    4. Deny all you want, but do you believe that the Department of Justice is pro-gun? You're speculating about what goes down, but that's the assessment of the nation's top law enforcement agency.

    5. Let me understand you, Greg. The DOJ is on the ball but the ATF is not? Is that it?

    6. There's a difference between a study and an operation. But since you raise the point, consider this: The government would have to enforce the laws that you want. Can you trust it to do that?

  2. So, we're supposed to put our faith in this person who claims to have psychic abilities?

    1. In the writer's last paragraph, he's claiming to have knowledge of a future (possible) event. person’s self-defense is another person’s murder, as the case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin..

      So, either he has psychic abilities or can time travel

      Zimmerman hasn't been convicted of anything. While it's true it was a homicide, it won't be a murder unless a jury says so.

  3. What a pile of ABSOLUTE CRAP!! It could be 100 quadrillion or it could be 2. This is shit, but it's what gunsucks do.

    1. And this is what gun control advocates do: Make no sense whatsoever.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. And yet, there are other criminologists who disagree with Hemenway. I have yet to see any research published that is not criticized by someone. The first quote I take from Please try to limit your evaluation to the ORIGINAL SOURCE rather than the site from which I pulled the quote. The original source can be found in its entirety at

    Marvin Wolfgang, who was one of the most prominent criminologists, commented on Kleck's research concerning defensive gun use (see How often are guns used in self-defense?):

    I am as strong a gun-control advocate as can be found among the criminologists in this country. If I were Mustapha Mond of Brave New World, I would eliminate all guns from the civilian population and maybe even from the police. I hate guns--ugly, nasty instruments designed to kill people. ...
    What troubles me is the article by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. The reason I am troubled is that they have provided an almost clear-cut case of methodologically sound research in support of something I have theoretically opposed for years, namely, the use of a gun in defense against a criminal perpetrator... I have to admit my admiration for the care and caution expressed in this article and this research. ...

    Can it be true that about two million instances occur each year in which a gun was used as a defensive measure against crime? It is hard to believe. Yet, it is hard to challenge the data collected. We do not have contrary evidence. The National Crime Victim Survey does not directly contravene this latest survey, nor do the Mauser and Hart studies. ...

    Nevertheless, the methodological soundness of the current Kleck and Gertz study is clear. I cannot further debate it. ...

    The Kleck and Gertz study impresses me for the caution the authors exercise and the elaborate nuances they examine methodologically. I do not like their conclusions that having a gun can be useful, but I cannot fault their methodology. They have tried earnestly to meet all objections in advance and have done exceedingly well.
    --- Marvin E. Wofgang, "A Tribute to a View I Have Opposed," Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 1995, Vol. 86 No. 1.)

    The Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say about Dr Wolfgang:
    Marvin Wolfgang, (born November 14, 1924, Millersburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.—died April 12, 1998, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), American criminologist who was described by the British Journal of Criminology as “the most influential criminologist in the English-speaking world.”

    1. I find it odd that Dr. Wolfgang could have considered research based on telephone interviews about events for which there was no records and no evidence except the shooter's story as sound methodologically.

    2. Funny. When people quote Wolfgang they tend to leave this part out that he wrote:

      “The usual criticisms of survey research, such as that done by Kleck
      and Gertz, also apply to their research. The problems of small
      numbers and extrapolating from relatively small samples to the
      universe are common criticisms of all survey research, including
      theirs. I did not mention this specifically in my printed comments
      because I thought that this was obvious; within the specific
      limitations of their research is what I meant by a lack of criticism
      (J of Criminal Law and Criminology 86:2 p617-8)