Debunking the Defensive Gun Use Myth


The Myth of Defensive Gun Use

**Note – This article appeared in Politico on 1/14/2015

In the early hours of Nov. 2, 2013, in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, a pounding at the door startled Theodore Wafer from his slumber. Unable to find his cell phone to call the police, he grabbed the shotgun he kept loaded in his closet. Wafer opened the door and, spotting a dark figure behind the screen, fired a single blast at the supposed intruder. The shot killed a 19-year-old girl who was knocking to ask for help after a car accident.

Shortly after midnight on June 5, 2014, two friends left a party briefly. Upon returning they accidently knocked on the wrong door. Believing burglars were breaking in, the frightened homeowner called the police, grabbed his gun and fired a single round, hitting one of the confused party-goers in the chest.

On Sept. 21, 2014, Eusebio Christian was awakened by a noise. Assuming a break-in, he rushed to the kitchen with his gun and began firing. All his shots missed but one, which struck his wife in the face.

What do these and so many other cases have in common? They are the byproduct of a tragic myth: that millions of gun owners successfully use their firearms to defend themselves and their families from criminals. Despite having nearly no academic support in public health literature, this myth is the single largest motivation behind gun ownership. It traces its origin to a two-decade-old series of surveys that, despite being thoroughly repudiated at the time, persists in influencing personal safety decisions and public policy throughout the United States.

In 1992, Gary Kleck and Marc Getz, criminologists at Florida State University, conducted a random digit-dial survey to establish the annual number of defensive gun uses in the United States. They surveyed 5,000 individuals, asking them if they had used a firearm in self-defense in the past year and, if so, for what reason and to what effect. Sixty-six incidences of defensive gun use were reported from the sample. The researchers then extrapolated their findings to the entire U.S. population, resulting in an estimate of between 1 million and 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year.

The claim has since become gospel for gun advocates and is frequently touted by the National Rifle Association, pro-gun scholars such as John Lott and conservative politicians. The argument typically goes something like this: Guns are used defensively “over 2 million times every year—five times more frequently than the 430,000 times guns were used to commit crimes.” Or, as Gun Owners of America states, “firearms are used more than 80 times more often to protect the lives of honest citizens than to take lives.” Former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum has frequently opined on the benefits of defensive gun use, explaining: “In fact, there are millions of lives that are saved in America every year, or millions of instances like that where gun owners have prevented crimes and stopped things from happening because of having guns at the scene.”

It may sound reassuring, but is utterly false. In fact, gun owners are far more likely to end up like Theodore Wafer or Eusebio Christian, accidentally shooting an innocent person or seeing their weapons harm a family member, than be heroes warding off criminals.

How To Manufacture A Statistic

In 1997, David Hemenway, a professor of Health Policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, offered the first of many decisive rebukes of Kleck and Getz’s methodology, citing several overarching biases in their study.

First, there is the social desirability bias. Respondents will falsely claim that their gun has been used for its intended purpose—to ward off a criminal—in order to validate their initial purchase. A respondent may also exaggerate facts to appear heroic to the interviewer.

Second, there’s the problem of gun owners responding strategically. Given that there are around 3 million members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the United States, ostensibly all aware of the debate surrounding defensive gun use, Hemenway suggested that some gun advocates will lie to help bias estimates upwards by either blatantly fabricating incidents or embellishing situations that should not actually qualify as defensive gun use.

Third is the risk of false positives from “telescoping,” where respondents may recall an actual self-defense use that is outside the question’s time frame. We know that telescoping problems produce substantial biases in defensive gun use estimates because the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), the gold standard of criminal victimization surveys, explicitly catalogs and corrects for it.

Specifically, NCVS asks questions on the household level every 6 months. The first household interview has no time frame. Follow-up interviews are restricted to a six-month time frame and then NCVS corrects for duplicates. Using this strategy, NCVS finds that telescoping alone likely produces at least a 30 percent increase in false positives.

These sorts of biases, which are inherent in reporting self-defense incidents, can lead to nonsensical results. In several crime categories, for example, gun owners would have to protect themselves more than 100 percent of the time for Kleck and Getz’s estimates to make sense. For example, guns were allegedly used in self-defense in 845,000 burglaries, according to Kleck and Getz. However, from reliable victimization surveys, we know that there were fewer than 1.3 million burglaries where someone was in the home at the time of the crime, and only 33 percent of these had occupants who weren’t sleeping. From surveys on firearm ownership, we also know that 42 percent of U.S. households owned firearms at the time of the survey. Even if burglars only rob houses of gun owners, and those gun owners use their weapons in self-defense every single time they are awake, the 845,000 statistic cited in Kleck and Gertz’s paper is simply mathematically impossible.

Despite survey data on defensive gun uses being notoriously unreliable, until recently there have been only scattered attempts at providing an empirical alternative. The first scientific attempt was a study in Arizona, which examined newspaper, police reports and court records for defensive gun uses in the Phoenix area over a 100 day period. At the time Arizona had the 6th highest gun death rate, an above average number of households with firearms and a permissive “shall issue” concealed carry law meaning that defensive gun use should be higher than the national average.

Extrapolating Kleck-Gertz survey results to the Phoenix area would predict 98 defensive killings or injuries and 236 defensive firings during the study period. Instead, the study found a total of 3 defensive gun uses where the gun was fired, including one instance in which a feud between two families exploded into a brawl and several of the participants began firing. These results were much more in line with (but still substantially less than) extrapolated NCVS data, which predicted 8 defensive killings or injuries and 19 firings over the same time frame.

Brand new data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, a non-partisan organization devoted to collecting gun violence data, further confirms Hemenway’s suspicion that Kleck and Getz’s findings are absurd. The archive found that for all of 2014 there were fewer than 1,600 verified defensive guns uses, meaning a police report was filed. This total includes all outcomes and types of defensive uses with a police report—a far cry from the millions that Kleck and Getz estimated.

Many gun advocates will protest at this point that not all defensive gun uses are reported to the police, which is true. However, Kleck’s surveys and the NCVS reports indicate that more than 50 percent of such incidents are reported to the police. This would indicate 3,200 defensive uses on an annual basis, still well short of what surveys suggest. Further, if there actually are 50,000 defensive gun uses as NCVS’ data suggests, or more than 1 million as Kleck and Getz’s surveys claim, that would mean only 3.2 percent or 0.16 percent respectively of defensive gun uses are reported to the police. Believing that such a small fraction of incidents are reported is indulging in fantasy.

Kleck and Gertz often defend their paper by claiming that their results are consistent with the findings of other private surveys. They explain that the reliability of a survey should be judged by the degree to which it coheres with the estimates of other surveys. However, using a tool we know to be flawed, over and over again, does not increase the quality of estimates deriving from the tool—it merely produces convergence to an arbitrary number. Surveys, for example, regularly show that men have sex with women more often than women have sex with men. Survey results don’t mean anything if they don’t pass muster with reality.

Criminal Uses Outnumber Self-Defense Uses

The spurious conclusions in these surveys don’t just distort the pro-gun community’s perception of defensive gun use. For example, the claim that millions every year shoot their guns in self-defense has led some to posit that there are more defensive gun uses than criminal uses. This assertion is inexplicable—not backed by any substantive evidence. We have yet to find a single study examining the question that does not show that criminal uses far outweigh defensive uses.

You might hear gun advocates substantiate this claim by comparing inflated survey numbers like Kleck’s with NCVS crime numbers. But defensive gun use surveys and the NCVS use different methodologies. To compare those two data sets is to break one of the most important laws of statistical analysis: You must always compare likes to likes.

And indeed, comparing NCVS results to NCVS results yields a very different picture—that more than 9 times as many people are victimized by guns than protected by them. Respondents in two Harvard surveys had more than 3 times as many offensive gun uses against them as defensive gun uses. Another study focusing on adolescences found 13 times as many offensive gun uses. Yet another study focusing on gun use in the home found that a gun was more than 6 times more likely to be used to intimidate a family member than in a defensive capacity. The evidence is nearly unanimous.

Most Self-Defense Uses Are Illegal

Beyond the defensive gun use versus criminal use dichotomy lies an important question: Are all defensive gun uses good? Undergirding gun advocates’ rhetoric touting the millions of defensive gun uses every year is the assumption that these uses are necessarily good. However, most cases of defensive gun use are not of gun owners heroically defending their families from criminals.

Kleck himself admitted in 1997, in response to criticism of his survey, that 36 to 64 percent of the defensive gun uses reported in the survey were likely illegal—meaning the firearm was used to intimidate or harm another person rather than for legitimate self-defense. His conjecture was confirmed by a Harvard study showing that 51 percent of defensive gun uses in a large survey were illegal according to a panel of 5 judges. This was even after the judges were told to take the respondents at their word, deliberately ignoring the tendency of respondents to portray themselves in a positive light.

Let’s assume for a moment that Kleck and Getz’s estimates are accurate. Rather than being a boon to civilized society, then, these estimates of 1 million to 2.5 million defensive gun uses annually would instead indicate an epidemic of irresponsible gun owners—millions! Lucky for us, despite what the NRA’s favorite criminologists claim, this clearly isn’t the case.

The myth of widespread defensive gun use is at the heart of the push to weaken already near catatonic laws controlling the use of guns and expand where good guys can carry guns to bars, houses of worship and college campuses—all in the mistaken belief that more “good guys with guns” will help stop the “bad guys.” As Wayne LaPierre of the NRA railed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”

But the evidence clearly shows that our lax gun laws and increased gun ownership, spurred on by this myth, do not help “good guys with guns” defend themselves, their families or our society. Instead, they are aiding and abetting criminals by providing them with more guns, with 200,000 already stolen on an annual basis. And more guns means more homicides. More suicides. More dead men, women and children. Not fewer.

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  • William Vizzard

    For additional analysis of the internals of DGUs see Vizzard, William, Shots in the Dark: The Policy, Politics & Symbolism of Gun Control, pp 15-21. I also suggest looking at the pattern of part one and violent crimes in NY & CA in comparison to FL & TX since the latter adopted permissive right to carry. This is addressed in forthcoming article in J. of Criminal Law and Criminology.

    • Thank you, Dr. Vizzard. I was able to read pages 17-21 via Google Books here ( Really great work. Let me know when that article comes out as well– would love to read it.

      One thing: in your analysis you concede “underreporting by some respondents probably offsets false positives by others for reasons described by Kleck and Gertz.” However, I’m not sure this makes sense. Assuming for simplicity’s sake that 5 out of every 1000 adults interviewed used a gun in self-defense. Only 5 five of these adults (.5 percent of the sample) even have the possibility of being misclassified as a false negative. Meanwhile, 995 out of 1000 individuals have the potential of being classified as a false positive. The risk of a false positive is two orders of magnitudes higher than a false negative.

  • Anthony

    “In the early hours of Nov. 2, 2013, in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, a pounding at the door startled Theodore Wafer from his slumber. Unable to find his cell phone to call the police, he grabbed the shotgun he kept loaded in his closet. Wafer opened the door and, spotting a dark figure behind the screen, fired a single blast at the supposed intruder. The shot killed a 19-year-old girl who was knocking to ask for help after a car accident.

    Shortly after midnight on June 5, 2014, two friends left a party briefly. Upon returning they accidently knocked on the wrong door. Believing burglars were breaking in, the frightened homeowner called the police, grabbed his gun and fired a single round, hitting one of the confused party-goers in the chest.

    On Sept. 21, 2014, Eusebio Christian was awakened by a noise. Assuming a break-in, he rushed to the kitchen with his gun and began firing. All his shots missed but one, which struck his wife in the face.”

    Ah, cherry-picking at its finest. Never mind that those cases are in the minority and in the majority of DGUs it does not backfire (no pun intended) on the person. The cases you cite are actually far, far from the majority and are tiny.

    People accidentally or mistakenly shooting innocent people do not happen in the vast majority of DGUs. Go ahead and prove it.

    • We never made the claim that those cases are the majority. It is instructive, however, that gun advocates dispute the above anecdotes (which we’re not citing as evidence) by saying that they don’t constitute data, and then as proof of their argument, they reference personal testimony on the benefits of guns in their own lives….

      We made claims as to how criminal uses far outweigh self-defense uses and provided a litany of studies to substantiate that claim.

      • Anthony

        Really? Personal anecdotes?

        One glance at the cases will show that the great majority of DGUs are successful. Innocents getting accidentally shot are a tiny minority.

        • Again– my claim is that criminal uses far outweigh defensive gun uses. I have made precisely zero claim about the relative likelihood of a successful defensive gun use vis-a-vis s a “backfire.”

        • Anthony

          Then why bring them up at all? You lead readers to erroneously believe that these are common by-products of DGUs when they are a tiny minority.

          • Surprise! It’s almost as if you didn’t read the entire article

          • thelandyacht

            Agreed. By leading with these examples, that is exactly the thing you portray. Otherwise, you’d have left it off…or placed it elsewhere in the article.

  • Anthony

    Also the judges study. I’ve read that. IIRC the judges hailed from California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Most of which came from the former two.

    So yeah, it’s not a faor sample at all as what would constituite a “legal” dgu in Wyoming would probably be considered illegal in Massachusetts.

  • CNS

    The notion that there are only 1500 defensive gun uses per year is far more absurd then any pro-gun figure claim this author wants to debunk. Every legitimate study on this issue has turned up tens of thousands of cases, sometimes even hundreds of thousands.

    Lets turn to the government. In 1993, the Bureau of Justice reported 83,000 cases of defensive gun use per year. Keep in mind, this was before most states had legal CCW laws, so it’s reasonable to assume that number has gone up since then.

    That view is consistent with what the National Crime Victimization Survey found a few years later: 108,000 defensive gun uses per year

    It’s unlikely that defensive gun use is more common then all criminal gun use, but clearly, it is more common then gun fatal accidents, homicides, and suicides combined. In America, guns are used more often to protect lives then take them. Reality is proven that our respect for individual gun rights DO help good guys with guns protect themselves, their families, and society, while trying to forcibly disarm the lawful and responsible gun users would protect no one but criminals who want to victimize.

    • Steven

      Did you read the article at all? The first link looks extremely unreliable, so I won’t really trust it. I flicked through the second one, and kept seeing biased language and an emphasis on how guns are good. It also kept referencing the Kleck / Gertz survey and even said that their survey was modelled of the Kleck / Gertz survey. You can’t go ahead and say: “Well, that survey was bad. So we will do it again! Guess what? Same results!” On top of everything, they are surveys. People lie on surveys, and you don’t need proof for a survey. Show me actual court cases or the like where a civilian with a legally owned gun used his/her gun
      legally to deter a criminal in the act of breaking the law. Compare those (nonexistent) results with the many other instances of violent gun crime ending with death or injury.

      • So because you see “biased language” is it because you do not like the results? Or can you stand on the statistical reasoning analysis that went into it?

        Let’s do a little scratchpad figuring here.

        The total include 12,765 murders, of which 8,855 were by firearms.
        And there were 298,211 robberies, of which 122,174 involved firearms.
        And there were 763,472 aggravated assaults, only 21.8% involved a firearm, that gives 166,437.
        There were 84,408 forcible rapes, but no data on firearm usage.

        So let’s deduct the non-firearm violent crimes:
        3910 Murders
        176,037 Robberies
        597,035 Aggravated assaults
        66,007 Rapes (using the 21.8% figure from assaults which is probably too many)

        That gives us just 363,042 violent crimes with firearms.

        If we assume
        300 million firearms in the US, that’s 0.12% misused (99.88% not used)
        250 million firearms in the US, that’s 0.14% misused (99.86% not used)
        100 million firearms in the US, that’s 0.36% misused (99.64% not used)

        Note: This assumes a different firearm used for each incident which is a statistical improbability of high order.

        Conclusion: Less than 1/2 of 1 percent

        Sorry, the numbers do not compute.

        And where would an “actual court case” document a DGU? Do you know how ill educated that makes you sound? Do you even know the Executive and Judicial processes in place in this country?

  • AntiCitizenOne

    “my claim is that criminal uses far outweigh defensive gun uses.”

    And how many of the criminal events are committed by those who have acquired the firearms illegally, vs those who have concealed carry permits?

    • Paul

      Since you have clearly not read the whole article, here is a passage from it specifically for you to read:

      “…they are aiding and abetting criminals by providing them with more guns, with 200,000 already stolen on an annual basis.”

      The criminals are getting their guns illegally by stealing them from legal gun owners. Less legal gun owners = less criminal gun owners.

  • Matt M.

    Yes or No – Did the peer-review/peer-editing board of the CDC determine that the assertion “defensive gun use equals or exceeds offensive gun use” (paraphrasing) was sufficiently reputable to include in their study?

  • Matt M.

    The reason I raise the above is because here you state the following regarding the CDC study:

    “. Garbage in (Kleck’s studies), garbage out (the portion of the CDC study you reference). ”

    Just so we are all on the same page – you are of the position that the CDC has such a rinky dink back alley operation going on that it’s peer-review peer-editing process allows “garbage” to slip through the cracks of perhaps one of the most important reports on gun violence from a national institution?

  • Clint Harness

    I don’t write this reply to argue with the presentation of this information, this type of information is not easy to find, but the mentality that the information is coming up against is much farther reaching than a few data sets or studies are capable of changing.

    I spent years trying to convince a single family member that he did not need a gun to protect himself or his home, it wasn’t about statistics or even information, his belief that the guns were necessary to be safe came from an underlying fear. The fear in his case most likely derived from his life experience, was very much a part of who he was and no amount of talking or proving was going to change his mind.

    I don’t write this to diminish the possibility that people can be convinced that too many guns are a threat to the security of everybody; rather I’m noting the wave of support for guns as a defense mechanism is not always rational and often emotional, which has to be confronted by a similar wave of feeling secure in our communities and our nation.

  • Arch Stanton

    Our debunking hero David Hemenway was paid by the CDC for ‘Characteristics of automatic and semiautomatic firearms ownership in the United States.’
    “What distinguishers automatic and semiautomatic firearms is that they can be SPRAY fired.”

    There is no such thing as SPRAY firing. It’s a made up term. Who knows which orifice he pulled it from, but someone paid for this crap.
    Hemenway then claims that people who own these firearms are more likely to binge drink.

    After admitting that 15% of his respondents didn’t know if they owned a semiautomatic or automatic firearm he concludes with; “We did not ask about automatics and semiautomatics seperatley. However, fully automatic firearms in private hands are rare, and owners of fully automatic firearms PROBABLY also own semiautomatics, we presume that most of respondents were answering in reference to semiautomatics.”

    Gun control is this asshat’s bread and butter. He is less than credible. And you wonder why the NRA is so against the CDC conducting gun policy research? Thank this moron.

    • You are an extremely confused person.

      1. Hemenway isn’t *paid* for his work. The Harvard Injury Control Center is partially funded by the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC partially funds numerous injury control centers around the United States to serve as a information centers to the public on injury prevention. You can learn about these injury control centers here:

      2. Spray firing is literally defined in the succeeding sentence, “Holding down the trigger of an automatic firearm results in a continuous stream of bullets until the ammunition magazine is emptied.” Numerous other organizations use spray-fire in this way to distinguish semi and automatic rifles. See the National Shooting Sports Foundation for one such example:

      3. Who, exactly, in the gun debate is more credible than Hemenway? He has written more than 130 articles on public health and has 5 books; has a B.A. and a PhD from Harvard, he is the director of the largest Injury Control Center in the United States, and he has made significant contributions in the fields of Statistics, Economics, and numerous sub-fields of public health.

  • Your argument debunking the myth of defensive use of guns makes perfect sense to anyone familiar with the limitations of survey methodology. Gross overreoporting of socially desirable behaviors by survey respondents has been well documented in scientific literature. The problem with your argument, however, is that it will do nothing to persuade the other side, because gun ownership is not based on rational considerations.

    Gun is a fetish symbolizing power and control over others, and that is the main appeal of gun ownership to the majority of the US population. Self-defense is just socially acceptable rationalization. American culture emphasizes power and control yet the life of most people in the US is subject to a myriad of regulations, both private and public, that leave individuals basically powerless against institutions, corporations, banks, credit cards companies, government agencies and so on. On the top of it, the paranoid style of media reporting and political discourse creates an illusion of constant and imminent danger ranging from common crime and natural disasters to uncertain economic future, to lack of social safety net, and to a myriad of bizarre conspiracies. The end result is that people who are culturally expected to be in charge and in control sense that they have little of both and fear that they are in constant danger by some looming threat regularly dished out by the media and politicians.

    From that pov, buying a gun is a ritualistic behavior to buy peace of mind and sense of security in a society where people feel constantly threatened and having little or no control. In other societies, folks would be buying talismans, lighting candles, saying prayers or making sacrifices to the gods to secure their safety, but in a secular society such the US gun ownership plays the same ritualistic role. It is a mental crutch that gives troubled and scared individuals a false sense of security and peace of mind. Taking that mental crutch away is seen as cruel and senseless as taking a crutch from a disabled person.

    Debunking the myth of defensive gun use will do little to reduce the appeal of gun ownership to the majority of the US population. To do that, you need to implement far reaching social reforms that would instill a sense of personal security, social safety and control of institutions and the political process. People who feel that their environment is safe and secure and that they are empowered to control that environment and their destiny in that environment do not need to rely on fetishes giving them illusions of that safety and control. Unfortunately, the oligarchy that rules this country will not allow such reforms to happen any time soon, and instead will continue relying on fearmongering to manipulate the populace.

    • Si White

      I loved your comment on so many levels, Wojtek. I’ve recently had two instances where I’ve run up against the amazing anger and stridency of pro-gun people, which surprised me. Your comment shed some light on this fanaticism, because nobody likes to have their rituals and talismans questioned, especially if their fanaticism is irrational. (Another explanation might be Fox News, a network that deliberately tries to incite its viewers to anger. Perhaps they succeed all too well.)

      When reading your last paragraph, I wanted to stand up and applaud. The one percent don’t want to give up their power to the 99 percent of us, often citing how complex the society is as a reason why their expertise is necessary. But what about the quality of the rulers’ morality? As a whole, Americans are good people, if a bit naive. But the morality of our rulers is another matter. I’ve just finished watching the movie, “There Will Be Blood,” and the main character’s evil nature typifies the morality of our rulers. How could we do worse than with the rulers that we’ve got?

  • Pingback: Less Guns, Less Crime- Debunking the Self-Defense Myth | Armed With Reason()

  • France, has very tight gun ownership restrictions… please tell me, how did that work out, when Terrorists were shooting up the Satire Papers Office and Murdering people, including the Police? No Guns were allowed in the Sandy Hook School, or Columbine High School or The Aurora, Colorado Theater… but that did not stop the Killers from bringing in guns and killing people…did it? I wish we could ask one of the Murder victims if they wish they had a way to defend themselves… instead of curling up in a Fetal Position and waiting to get shot as they lay there defenseless.

  • Publius

    I’m looking more into this area, but one part of your article immediately struck me as odd. You say in your article that “Kleck himself admitted in 1997, in response to criticism of his survey, that 36 to 64 percent of the defensive gun uses reported in the survey were likely illegal—meaning the firearm was used to intimidate or harm another person rather than for legitimate self-defense… Let’s assume for a moment that Kleck and Getz’s estimates are accurate. Rather than being a boon to civilized society, then, these estimates of 1 million to 2.5 million defensive gun uses annually would instead indicate an epidemic of irresponsible gun owners—millions!”

    However, I’m puzzled that you cited Tom Smith on this point where Smith explicitly disagrees that most DGUs involve illegal use of firearms, on page 1466 ( of the link you provided. In any case, Tom Smith cites K&G’s paper “Armed Resistance to Crime,” p. 174 for the bit about 36-64% of DGUs were illegal. On said paper, K&G say this about such DGUs (

    “About 37% of these incidents occurred in the defendents home, with another 36% near the defender’s home. This implies that the remaining 27% occured in locations where the defender must have carried a gun through public spaces. Adding in the 36% which occured near the defender’s home and which may or may not have entailed public carry, 36 to 63% of the DGUs entailed gun carrying.”

    It should be clear that K&G were principally referring to carrying a concealed gun in the public – back in a time when most of the country was no-issue or may-issue with respect to CHLs. Hence, the illegality principally referred to in such instances wasn’t cases of the defender acting to “intimidate or harm another person rather than for legitimate self-defense” but rather having no option for a legitimate route to self-defense other illegal carry of a firearm. That is a far cry from 36 – 63% illegally assaulting or intimidating others with a firearm back in the early 90s.

  • Arch Stanton

    Yes, I am very confused. Does he or does he not get *Paid* for his research? Also, what percentage of his grant monies come from the Joyce Foundation? You forgot to mention that as a source for School funding.
    Your NSSF link mentioning ‘Spray Firing’ is a tutorial on how members can refute the VPC alarmist article entitled “Bullet Hoses” including such gems as these:

    5. Military weapons were designed and developed for a specific military purpose-laying down a high volume of fire over a wide killing zone, also known as ‘Hosing down’ and area.

    8. “Spray-Firing” from the hip, a widely recognized technique for the use of assault weapons in certain combat situations, has no place in civil society. Although assault weapons advocates claim that “Spray-Firing” and shooting from the hip with such weapons is never done, numerous sources(including photographs and diagrams)show how the functional design features of assault weapons are used specifically for this purpose.

    The only thing close to #5 is the concept of “Suppressive Fire”. And no it has nothing to do with ‘wide killing zones’ and ‘hosing down’ an area. It is to force an enemy into hiding under cover so you can outflank him or destroy him with Air or Artillery Support. I don’t know of any civilian implications for this. Do you?

    I was seriously confused at the amount of “Spray-Firing” google hits relate to the paint sprayer industry. Apart from that one NSSF refutation and the VPC alarmist tripe it’s almost as if “Spray-Firing” doesn’t exist. Not ONE branch of the Military or Police Department in the country advocates or practices “Spray-Firing”. And for good reason. It is UNAIMED fire and useless for hitting anything. I will give you this: Hollywood seems to love “spray-firing”. Great cinema.
    So is ‘Star Wars’.
    His research on the difference between Automatic and semiautomatic firearms is so poorly conducted that a large portion of his study didn’t know if they owned one or the other. Need I even mention that he admitted that Automatic weapons ownership is so rare that few if any of respondents actually had one? His methods were such a joke that, conceivably, all of those polled could have actually a fully automatic weapon in their possession. We’d never know.

    Yes, Hemenway has serious credibility issues. Are you aware of his gun works coauthored with Handgun Control Inc’s Research Director? You know, Douglas Weil.
    1992’s “Loaded Guns in the Home”.
    1992’s “Violence in America: Guns”
    1993’s “I am the NRA: an analysis of a National Random Survey of gun owners”.

    How about a little speech he gave at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in April of 2013:

    “Instead of it being the mark of a real man that you can shoot somebody at 50 feet and kill them with a gun. the mark of a real man is that you would never do anything like that….the gun is a great equalizer because it makes wimps as dangerous as people who really have skill and bravery and so I’d like to have this notion that anyone using a gun is a wuss. They aren’t anybody to be looked up to. They are somebody to look down at because they couldn’t defend themselves or protect others without using a gun.

    He allows himself to co-author material with Handgun Control Inc. and speaks out against gun ownership, seemingly unaware of any ethical ramifications that a researcher ought to be aware of.

    While I’m at it:

    From your very own “Militia Myths: Why armed populations…….
    You linked Alex Seitz-Wald’s “The Hitler gun control lie” from 1/11/13
    “As it turns out, the Weimar Republic, the German Government that immediately preceeded Hitler’s, actually had tougher gun laws than the Nazi regime.”

    Our good man Alex used, as reference, Michael Moynihan’s 12/18/12 piece entitled, “Gun control and the Holocaust”. In it is this little gem: “Still, it is indeed true that in 1938, the Nazi’s expanded upon Germany’s already restrictive gun laws, most of which were established during the Weimar Republic.
    It appears that neither Seitz-Wald nor you are capable of carefully examining arguments that you use to help build your cases. That is sloppy research and inexcusable.

  • Lori

    There are a great many countries where gun ownership is minimal or even non-existent in the general population and personal safety is perhaps better than in USA. The USA seems to be the only country where these strange gun tragedies take place often.

    I personally refuse to travel to the United States, because of the attitude of Americans, including the police, to gun ownership and use.

    I ask myself, who funds and runs the NRA, and what do they have to gain?

  • Lori, the NRA is funded by its 5 million members. There are more than 60 million gun owners in the US. As long as you stay out of gang territory and other places you’d never go to anyway, your chance of death or injury by a gun is much lower than your chance of being in a car accident, drowning in a pool, or dying from falling down the stairs.

    The general belief that the US is rife with cowboys itching to shoot each other is gross misrepresentation. Violent crime has consistently fallen over the last 20+ years in the US.

    It’s beautiful here, the people are mostly nice, the food is awesome, and there’s something for everyone. You don’t know what you’re missing, avoiding the US because of some irrational fear. That’s like saying you’d never visit Australia because of all the venomous animals.

  • The need for home protection by way of personal gun ownership was a secondary concern for our founding fathers who conceived and added the 2nd Amendment to the creation of this republic. One of the first actions taken by repressive regimes when they ascend to power is to confiscate all weapons from the general public. They claim, the same things we hear from the left ” You don’t need personal weapons…we will protect you”…or…”public safety must come before personal freedoms”. When those who are in power are unsure of their neighbors ‘status’ where gun possession is concerned the less likely they will be inclined to abuse their neighbors liberty. That is what is really at stake. However, I doubt this ‘smokescreen’ of unqualified gun owners will dissipate any time soon.

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  • Michael

    “For example, the claim that millions every year shoot their guns in self-defense has led some to posit that there are more defensive gun uses than criminal uses.”

    In what reality is that even possible? Thank you for another fine example of “logic” from the left. Do you even read what you write?

    • alinnc

      You must have missed the next sentence where he states the assertion is inexplicable. In other words the numbers are impossible to logically arrive at. So the question is did you read what he wrote?

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  • Steven

    I saw the word suspect a lot. These people took the law in their own hands, from the off duty cop shooting a suspect to a father shooting his own son in an altercation. On top of that, almost none of these uses were really legal. Lastly, dead people don’t talk. It’s easy to shoot someone who bumps into you on the street and then claim he was a bag snatcher.

  • Matt

    I’m on the pro-gun side of the argument, but I liked your article, and think it was well-written and raised some excellent points, except for one glaring mistake that, I think, undermines a large portion of your argument.

    You mention that the data collected by the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) is based on police *reports*. However, I don’t believe this is the case. I believe the GVA derives its information on DGUs only from news reports. I thought this was explained on their methodology page, but the wording there is not clear. I think it doesn’t need explaining why news reports are going to be a far less comprehensive source of information on DGUs than actual police reports. Even if I’m wrong, I think it would make your argument much stronger if you could find this out for certain (perhaps by contacting the GVA) and explaining this where it is relevant in your article.

    • We spoke with the head of GVA extensively before publishing the article, and he walked us through their methodology. Police reports are at the core of what they do. Indeed, if police don’t log the incident, neither does GVA. The one criticism that can be made of GVA data in terms of comprehensiveness is that not all DGU incidents are reported to the police, which we freely admit and explain the implications of in the article (as well as articles we have written since

  • SS

    I can sympathize with both sides of this argument since on the one hand I ‘used’ a shotgun in self defense in my own home when an intruder came in and I pointed the shotgun at his chest, he turned white like a ghost, and ran off! But at the same time all these paranoid deluded individuals who feel the need to carry a weapon with them where ever they go are probably the very one’s that ought NOT to be owning weapons. Even worse are the whack jobs like the so called patriots who think the govmint is out to get them. We don’t have a well regulated militia in this country we have a form of anarchy where guns are concerned and anything and everything goes.

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