Monday, January 7, 2013

More on Defensive Gun Use

The Propaganda Professor wrote a wonderful and lengthy followup to his other posts on the subject. Here are two small bits.

Gunsters often tout "studies" (i.e., surveys) that supposedly prove that there are hundreds of thousands, or even a few million, defensive guns uses (DGUs) every year. But not even all of these surveys support the "more guns, less crime" motif.   Two of the best known figures, both projected by the Dept. Of Justice, are 108,000 and 65,000 DGUs. Both of which fall far short of the documented 400,000-plus crimes committed with a gun annually. No wonder the gun culture has such a love affair with Dr. Kleck, who posits 2.5 million. He calculated this by interviewing just 222 individuals.

And here is where those surveys actually might be of some value. According to Kleck, 8 percent of the defenders wound or kill their assailants. This figure is certainly too low,  given Kleck's extremely loose standards for what constitutes a DGU. But even so, 8 percent of 2.5 million would mean it happens about 200,000 times per year. And yet only about one in 400 of these is reported in the news? Seriously? The National Crime Victimization Survey says it happens 3 percent of the time out of 108,000 DGUs per year.  That's 3240 in which the offender is wounded if not killed. And yet fewer than one in six is deemed newsworthy? Get real. One might argue that the media would have neither the capacity nor the interest to cover 200,000 such incidents per year. Perhaps not. but they would definitely have both the capacity and the interest to report 3240.


  1. You and the appropriately named Propaganda Professor love the idea that news articles are a reliable way to assess the frequency of something. That tells me what I need to know about your judgement.

  2. The DGU statistics are totally bogus. There is no verification, and gunsucks lie all the time to inflate these idiotic numbers.

    1. NCVS (which says 108,000) oftentimes comes short on all criminal phenomena relative to crime reports by police. As for "media verification", I'm not sure how we're supposed to treat that as somehow absolute verification. It's an utter crock to say media "verification" is somehow the be-all, end-all, considering there's plenty of things the media does not report on. I hate to tell you this, but journalistic methodology is NOT scholastic by any means of the imagination.

  3. MikeB,

    I posted on your previous comment about the number of defensive gun uses and had to repost it here since you reposted.

    Our beloved FBI Uniform Crime Reports state there were roughly 300 citizen (non law enforcement) justifiable homicides in the U.S. in 2010. (

    And that number is low because it doesn't include how many incidents went to trial and resulted in the acquittal of the defendant. But let's stick with 300. We know that gunshot wounds in general are fatal about 20% of the time. Thus there were at least 1500 defensive gun uses that only injured and did not cause the death of the criminal. That totals 1800 defensive gun uses. Then we have to account for the fact that citizens merely display their handgun roughly 90% of the time to stop criminals. Thus citizens would have "brandished" their firearms 18,000 times in defensive gun uses.

    So based only on the number of documented justifiable homicides, we can sensibly and quite accurately estimate that there were at least 20,000 (300 + 1,500 + 18,000) defensive gun uses in 2010. And that is an absolute minimum. It is quite reasonable to assume that many, many more people brandished or fired at and missed attackers and never reported the event to law enforcement for various reasons.

    Your estimate of 1,000 is way off the mark.

    Note: in order to refute my minimum estimate you have to:
    (1) Tell us why the FBI data is wrong.
    (2) Tell us your authoritative source that says most gun shot wounds are lethal.
    (3) And tell us your authoritative source that says armed citizens almost always shoot and injure/kill their attackers rather than brandish.

    1. Correction:

      I stated that 300 justifiable homicides means armed citizens non-fatally shot their attacker 1500 times as well based on the mortality rate of gunshot wounds (around 20%). That should be 1200 times for a total of 1500 events where armed citizens wounded or killed their attacker in 2010. And accounting for brandishing means there were an additional 13,500 defensive gun uses where armed citizens only had to brandish their firearm. Thus the grand total of all citizen defensive gun uses in 2010 based on FBI data of justifiable homicides is 15,000 events.

      And the actual number has to be higher for additional reasons. As I stated, the FBI's tally does not include events that are pending or went to trial (that did or will ultimately lead to the acquital of the defendent -- meaning their actions were justifiable homicide). We also know that several people, even though they know for a fact that they have committed no crime, will not report their defensive gun use to police for several reasons.

      Finally, there is another factor that I did not include in the estimate: the number of events where the armed citizen shot at and missed the attacker with all shots. This sort of event did not cause an injury or fatality to the attacker. And it is not brandishing because the armed citizen actually fired shots. This factor will also increase the estimate significantly.

  4. What I find fascinating, despite your constant attempts to demonize gun owners, we are still law abiding, responsible members of society who have the right to keep and bear arms..

  5. I am still waiting for your answer on how we can improve this number. Even you agree that DGUs are a good thing. How many violent crimes a year do you think are worth the victim defending themselves? What is the ratio of defenseless victims vs. DGUs?