Less Guns, Less Crime- Debunking the Self-Defense Myth

Posted On August 21, 2013
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August 21, 2013
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Myth:

Opponents of concealed-carry laws, such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, insist that the presence of armed citizens at mass shootings would result in even more deaths because of crossfire. But armed civilians prevented mass shootings on many occasions – in schools, a mall, and other public places – and there is no instance on record of a permit holder’s accidentally shooting a bystander – John Lott

None of the criminologists or economists who have studied concealed-carry handgun laws has found an increase in murder, suicide, or accidental death. Indeed, the vast majority of studies have found the opposite. – John Lott

An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life. – Robert Heinlein

  • We see it on the news every day, yet another instance of some heroic armed citizen forcing criminals to flee from a robbery, a woman in a dark alleyway able to protect her virtue against a man twice her size, a husband protecting his wife and children from armed intruders.
  • Over the past several decades, the number of guns Americans own has skyrocketed. Simultaneously, gun violence has receded to levels not seen since the 1960s.
  • This contention rests on the idea that guns are the best means of defense and are a deterrent against criminals.
  • This idea is based heavily on research done by John Lott, whose research indicated that concealed carry laws reduced violence and overall crime, and that states with higher levels of gun ownership are less violent.
  • Linked to the idea that an armed society is a polite society.

Reality:

One of the most common assertions in defense of firearm use is the argument that guns are used millions of times a year in self-defense and are therefore effective crime deterrents.  There are two theoretical mechanisms that could explain this effect: 1) an attempted crime may be stopped due to the presence of a firearm; 2) a potential crime may be deterred due to a criminal’s caution in pursuing areas with high firearm ownership rates. As it turns out, neither of these explanations bear out in the data.

Why Guns Per Person is the Wrong Way to Think About Gun Control:

Before debunking both of the mechanisms outlined above, first let’s be clear about the proper metric in discussing the relationship between guns and crime.

As the graph above shows, the number of guns in the US has increased dramatically over the past few decades. This increase in the number of guns has corresponded to a decrease in violent crime. Therefore, gun advocates conclude that more guns = less crime.

However, this thought process is merely an extension of deterrence theory. We illustrated that the MAD Theory of Guns is incoherent when applied to mass shootings, and it is just as illogical when applied to violent crime.

First, let’s examine the apparent contradiction between two ostensibly incongruent facts: the number of guns in the United States has been increasing, while the gun ownership rate is decreasing. This is easily explained by the fact that many if not most gun owners buy more than one gun. Not only do hunters need several types of hunting rifles to match their prey, but also a large segment of the gun-rights advocate population has been stockpiling arsenals for a while now in preparation for social unrest or government despotism (I find neither of these arguments particularly convincing myself, though I might be persuaded about the necessity of preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse).

A person owning one gun is just as dangerous and likely to commit a homicide as a person with a dozen guns, ignoring that owning multiple guns might be a proxy for other sorts of behavioral characteristics that might be related to criminality.  What we see in the data is that the United States has reached a saturation point with guns. Most people who are going to buy a gun for whatever reason have already bought one, and buying a second does not increase the gun ownership rate.

Think of it this way, 100 people with one gun each is much scarier statistically speaking than 1 person with 100 guns.This is why the gun ownership rate is the statistic to worry about much more than the overall number of guns. And to further demonstrate that it is highly unlikely that the increase in the number of guns caused the decrease in the homicide rate, consider this: If the deterrence theory is correct (which I will demonstrate is not the case), a person with one gun is just as likely to stop a crime as a person with 100 guns. The extra 99 guns don’t help.

It is merely the fact that a person owns a gun, not how many, that matters with regard to the crime debate. As gun ownership has not increased in tandem with the number of guns, it is not possible for the increase in guns to have contributed to the decrease in violent crime. The only effects that can stem from this surge in guns are deleterious. With hundreds of thousands of guns stolen every year, the stockpiling of weapons only increases the likelihood that they end up in the wrong hands.

To be clear, then: though the “number of guns” has been increasing, this is not a useful metric in empirical analysis when talking about crime. It is the per capita ownership rate (or household ownership rate), not the total number of guns that matters most.

The NRA hasn’t updated its sources since 1995:

It’s important to highlight that the only academic source which substantiates the claim that guns are used millions of times a year in self-defense is a 1995 publication by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz from Northwestern. This paper forms the entire basis behind the National Rifle Association’s talking point that “Americans use guns for self-protection as often as 2.1 to 2.5 million times a year.” Even if this paper had statistical merit, it’s rather curious that the NRA, Congress, and the media are still using a statistic computed from data that starts in 1981, the peak of the post-Vietnam crime wave, and is clearly inconsistent with a modern reading of literature on the subject .

However, even if you felt that a paper from 1995 still has social relevance, you should know that the entire paper has since been eviscerated by scholars who have pointed out that Kleck and Gertz’ paper suffers from errors so severe that their entire estimate is useless.

For example, according to Kleck and Gertz’s paper, guns were used in self-defense in 845,000 burglaries. 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. From surveys on firearm ownership, we know that 42% of US households own firearms (at the time of the survey), 33% of which contained occupants who weren’t sleeping at the time of the burglary. In order for the burglary statistic cited in Kleck and Gertz’s paper to be true, burglary victims would have to use their firearm in self-defense more than 100% of the time. Or, burglars could only rob houses of gun owners, and those gun owners would have to use their weapons in self-defense every single time they are awake.

Another absurd conclusion made in order to get to the ‘2.5 million’ claim, is that victims of rape and robbery are more likely to use a gun in self-defense than the offender is to use a gun against the victim. This clearly is impossible as most citizens don’t carry guns with them, and criminals choose the time and place of an attack.

David Hemenway, an economist and director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, concludes that “one small reason to expect even a tiny percentage of responders to over report (the number of times they used a firearm in self-defense) may be enough to lead to a substantial overestimate.”  Indeed, not one scholar since has been able to externally validate any of the claims made by Kleck and Gertz.

Guns are rarely used in self defense:

Now that I’ve given ample reason to be skeptical of the basis upon which the self-defense position is founded, let’s look at actual data on firearms used in self-defense.

To challenge the first way a firearm may potentially decrease crime, that is, attempted crimes may fail to materialize due to the presence of a firearm, we will use the most recent evidence from four national data sets, as provided by the Violence Policy Center.

In 2010, according to the most recent data on justifiable homicides from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, there were 230 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm in self-defense during either an attempted or a completed crime. In the same year, there were 8,275 firearm homicides. This means that, for every one justifiable firearm homicide, there were 36 criminal homicides. Contrary to the gun lobby’s claim that, between 2007 and 2011, guns were used 12.5 million times in self-defense, the most reliable data on this question clearly show that firearms were used only 338,700 times in self-defense, and this includes off-duty police. Clearly, then, despite living in a country with 300 million guns, the use of firearms in self-defense appears to be an exceedingly rare phenomenon.

Two other areas of crime—violent crime and property crime—are analyzed by the Violence Policy Center, and cast serious doubt on the argument that guns are used regularly in self-defense. Between 2007 and 2011, only 0.8 percent of violent crimes involved the intended victim using a firearm in self-defense. During the same five year period, only 0.1 percent of attempted or completed property crimes involved the intended victim using a firearm in self-defense. Given that between 40-45% of American households own a gun, and less than 0.1 percent of victims of property crime end up using a gun to stop a crime, it’s impossible to suggest that guns are being effectively used in self-defense. Rather than guns serving as a useful deterrent, they instead helped to directly facilitate crime: 232,400 guns were stolen each year from U.S. households between 2005 and 2010.

You might be thinking, as many of our readers did, that 338,700 defense gun uses in a five year period (DGU) is not ‘rare’, and that, according to our own data, guns are used in self-defense 7 times as much as they are used in criminal homicides.  As Devin and I have made clear in the comments section, however, this comparison is disingenuous:

The 338,700 DGUs is primarily composed of self-defense uses in which the victim would not have died in the absence of a gun.  We know this to be true because the majority of firearm violence in which the victim is unarmed does not result in the death of the victim.   It should be clear, then, that comparing defensive gun uses to offensive gun deaths, commits a category mistake because you are comparing variables of different magnitude.  Either uses should be compared to uses, or deaths should be compared to deaths.

Thus, two potential comparisons are more appropriate:

  1. Justifiable homicides vs criminal homicides - (deaths vs. deaths) the reason this is more accurate is that both result in a guaranteed death, and justifiable homicides function as a serviceable substitute for situations in which the death of the victim is more likely in the absence of a gun. In this case we have 230 justifiable homicides in 2010 vs 8,275 criminal homicides in 2010, which clearly weighs in favor of gun control advocates.
  2. Defensive gun use vs crimes committed with a firearm - (uses vs uses).  Again, guns were used in self-defense 338,700 times between 2007-2011.  In that same five year period, there were 2,277,000 crimes committed with a firearm.  Let’s be clear about this: every time a gun was used in self-defense, a criminal committed fatal or non-fatal firearm violence ~7 times.Either way you look at it, offensive gun use far outweighs defensive gun uses, and there is very little evidence validate the claim that guns reliably de-escalate a criminal encounter once it happens.

The Right to Carry Battle:

The clearest test of the MAD Theory of Guns is whether Right to Carry Laws (RTC) deter crime. RTC laws are the ultimate expression of MAD Theory. Those who do choose to carry are the quintessential “good guys with guns.” To get a permit, one has to go through a background check and take several hours of coursework. Even better, concealed carry means the bad guys have no idea who is armed and who isn’t. There could be a “good guy with a gun” around any corner, ready at a moment’s notice to bring a criminal to justice. Criminals realize that any illegal act could easily be their last, and so the presence of concealed carrying citizens should imbue criminals with caution, leading to a decrease in the crime rate.  If we cannot find supporting evidence of MAD Theory here, then it is safe to assert that the theory is intellectually bankrupt.

At first glance, the research appears promising for gun advocates. In his widely cited work “More Guns, Less Crime,” John Lott lays out the case for RTC laws using a comprehensive data set and the veneer of sophisticated statistical analysis. His analysis shows that RTC laws are very effective at lowering violent crime rates. At the surface level, MAD Theory seems to work.

However, even a brief glance at Lott’s findings reveals a multitude of peculiar findings that bear no resemblance to reality. As Albert Alschuler explains in “Two Guns, Four Guns, Six Guns, More Guns: Does Arming the Public Reduce Crime,” Lott’s work is filled with bizarre results.

According to Lott’s data, rural areas are more dangerous than cities. FBI data clearly shows this is not the case. In his data, the number of African-American females over the age of 65 is more highly correlated with the murder rate than the number of African-American teenagers. The number of killings committed by a stranger increases while the number of intra-family killings decreases after the passage of RTC laws. Lott also finds that there is only a weak deterrent effect on robberies, the most common street crime.

One critique of Lott’s work found that, according to Lott’s own data, RTC laws result in a positive statistically significant effect on crime in some states, and a negative statistically significant effect in others. The jumbled, contradictory, and quirky nature of these findings renders Lott’s analysis incoherent at best. Something is very wrong with his methods. To accept the statistical conclusion blindly, even in the face of obvious empirical realities, is not a good practice if we wish to create thoughtful policies on gun reform.

The suspicious nature of Lott’s findings are confirmed by other academic research. In response to John Lott’s book, “More Guns, Less Crime” a sixteen-member panel of the United States National Research Council convened twice to analyze the findings and statistical methods of Lott’s book.  Both times they found that there was little to no evidence to suggest that concealed carry laws dampened the incidence of the crime.  In 2010, they concluded the following, “the most consistent, albeit not uniform, finding to emerge from the array of models is that aggravated assault rises when RTC (Right to Carry) laws are adopted. For every other crime category, there is little or no indication of any consistent RTC impact on crime.”

The most recent available meta-analysis on firearm availability and homicide, surveying over fifty international and domestic studies, finds the consistency of evidence in favor of gun regulation overwhelming:

The available evidence is quite consistent. The few case control studies suggest that households with firearms are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide. International cross-sectional studies of high-income countries find that in countries with more firearms, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide. This result is primarily due to the United States, which has the highest levels of household ownership of private firearms, the weakest gun control laws, and the highest homicide rates. Time series studies of particular cities and states, and for the United States as a whole, suggest a positive gun prevalence-homicide association. Finally, perhaps the strongest evidence comes from cross-sectional analyses of U.S. regions and states. Again, places with higher levels of gun ownership are places with higher homicide rates.

In a gigantic, 120-page paper in Stanford Law Review entitled, “Shooting Down the ‘More Guns, Less Crime Hypothesis”, the authors find that the model used in Lott’s paper was riddled with inaccurate assumptions. Most problematically, Lott’s model estimates an aggregated effect for all states adopting shall-issue laws. This is faulty for at least two reasons: 1) it presupposes that shall-issue laws have a uniform effect across all states, when the effect is certainly variable; 2) the aggregated effect gives unfair weighting to states which are early adopters of shall-issue laws, and almost no weight to late adopters. We know from reliable victimization surveys that late adopters tended to experience crime increases, and so any aggregated effect will be biased to show that crime decreased after shall-issue laws were implemented.

The paper finds that, after controlling for the selection effects of very late and very early adopters, and introducing state level trends into a disaggregated model, the conclusions “largely eviscerate the more guns, less crime hypothesis.”

In short, the entire intellectual framework supporting RTC laws, and more generally The MAD Theory of Guns, has been utterly discredited  That being said, although it is empirically irrefutable that more guns does not equal less crime, does the opposite hold? Do less guns mean less crime, or is there simply no significant relationship between the two?

More Guns, More Crime:

The effect of gun ownership on crime is theoretically ambiguous—it could be the case that gun ownership increases the cost of crime and thus deters potential criminals, or it could also be the case that high gun ownership rates makes it easier for criminals to obtain guns, and thus causes more lethal crimes to occur. Extricating the exact relationship between firearms and crime has proven difficult, because of the need for a reliable proxy for gun ownership that is not correlated with the crime rate.

One of the most frequently cited papers challenging the “more guns, less crime” hypothesis is a seminal paper by University of Chicago Professor Mark Duggan in which he shows that gun ownership increases the crime rate.

In this paper, Duggan found that, between 1993 and 1998 gun homicides dropped 36 percent, while non-gun homicides dropped only 18 percent.  He found that one-third of the decline in gun-related homicides since 1993 can be explained by a decline in the gun ownership rate.   Duggan used a clever proxy in order to estimate the rate of gun ownership, the state and country-level sales rate for the Guns & Ammo magazine.

He found that gun magazine subscription data was strongly related to the demographic characteristics that were associated with gun possession, but not correlated to the crime rate.  Using this instrument, Duggan was able to show that guns cause an increase in crime, refuting the ‘reverse causality’ hypothesis in which individuals in high crime areas may hypothetically respond to the perceived threat of criminal activity through buying more firearms. Duggan therefore concludes that “increases in gun ownership lead to substantial increases in the overall homicide rate. This is driven entirely by the relationship between firearms and homicide in which a gun is used, implying that the results are not driven by reverse causation nor by omitted variables.”

To conclude:

  • Statistically speaking, guns are rarely used in self-defense, and thus cannot be defended on the grounds that they can reliably defuse crimes while they are happening.
  • The NRA bases its claim that guns are used millions of times a year in self-defense on a discredited study from 1995 that has not been validated in a single academic paper.
  • Concealed Carry Laws are not associated with decreases in crime, and sophisticated analyses show that, in some cases, there is an increase in aggravated assaults associated with concealed carry laws.
  • The best studies to date, using proxies to estimate gun availability, show that more guns lead to more crime.
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About Evan DeFilippis

Evan DeFilippis graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a triple degree in Economics, Political Science, and Psychology. He wrote for the university's opinion page, and received an outstanding contributor award twice for his publications on student apathy. He was the University of Oklahoma's valedictorian in 2012, he is one of the nation's few Harry S. Truman Scholars based on his commitment to public service, and is a David L. Boren Critical Languages scholar, fluent in Swahili, and dedicated to a career in African development. He will be starting work as a Project Associate for Innovations for Poverty Action working on a project called the Kenya Life Survey Panel in September.

19 Comments

  1.  avatar
    Devin Hughes   August 21, 2013 12:53 am / Reply

    We welcome all coherent, respectful comments. Since it is impossible to provide thoughtful commentary on something you haven’t bothered reading in full, comments where this is readily apparent will not be posted. We review all comments before they appear, so there will be a delay even if it meets the preceding criteria. Although we do not typically respond to comments and have no time to engage in prolonged debates, we will attempt to answer questions about our data or research.

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    Surplus_Knowledge   August 22, 2013 3:50 am / Reply

    Most of the basic facts you use in this article are sourced, and sound, but I take issue with a number of your conclusions:

    Statistically speaking, guns are almost never used in self-defense, and thus cannot be defended on the grounds that they can reliably defuse crimes while they are happening.

    “Almost never?” That’s ridiculous. The VPC source you cited listed 338,700 self-defense uses of guns from 2007-2011. 338,700 is a pretty significant number compared to “never,” which would be 0. You’d consider a 338,700 digit gap “almost?”

    I’m assuming you’re claiming they’re “almost never” used for self defense compared to other statistics about gun use, so let’s look at those. In that 4 year period that number encompasses, there were 46,313 gun murders. The statistics that you claim show that guns are “almost never” used for self-defense actually show that a defensive gun use is 7 times more likely than a gun murder.

    When you look at the amount of non-fatal firearm victimizations/incidents, the defensive gun uses clearly pale in comparison. If your objective is to minimize gun self defense usage compared to non-fatal firearm victimizations/incidents, then you’d be correct. Your conclusion falls apart when comparing the likelihood of gun murders vs gun self defense, though.

    Concealed Carry Laws are not associated with decreases in crime, and the most sophisticated analysis actually shows an increase in aggravated assaults.

    To quote your own passage on this:

    In 2010, [The NEC panel] concluded the following, “the most consistent, albeit not uniform, finding to emerge from the array of models is that aggravated assault rises when RTC (Right to Carry) laws are adopted. For every other crime category, there is little or no indication of any consistent RTC impact on crime.”

    You’re using a catch-all statement of essentially “CCW is associated with an increase in aggravated assaults,” when your own source admits that this is a consistent, but not uniform finding.

    It would be accurate instead to say that “in some cases, CCW is shown to associate with increase in aggravated assault.” Your use of absolutes in this statement is similar to the use of the popular anti-gun phrase “Guns are made to kill,” when there clearly are some models of firearms not made for killing in any form, thus invalidating the statement.

    The best studies to date, using proxies to estimate gun availability, show that more guns lead to more crime.

    Except that your entire first section was about how this concluding statement is essentially not the right statement to make or explore, as it’s more about per capita ownership rate vs the actual number of guns compared to crime. Seeing as national gun crime has hit record lows over the past decade as the number of owned guns has increased, at its face, more guns clearly do not equal more crime.

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      Evan DeFilippis   August 22, 2013 4:16 am / Reply

      Well-worded reply. I’ve modified the verbiage in the post to be less aggressive, as my aim is to be as accurate and articulate as possible with respect to the data.

      One point to mention is that comparing the 338,700 self-defense uses of guns from 2007-2011 to the 46,313 gun homicides statistic is slightly disingenuous. In only a small fraction of 338,700 self-defense uses would the victim have been killed in the absence of a gun, and we can estimate this probability by looking at the percentage of property theft and violent crime victims who are murdered when they don’t have a weapon– and this fraction is very small. By comparison 100% of homicide victims die, obviously.

      A fairer comparison might be to look at justifiable homicides, rather than self-defense uses. The reason being that justifiable homicides might be a better proxy for controlling for situations in which the death of the victim was likely in the absence of a gun. Given that there were only 230 justifiable homicides in 2010 and some 11,000 criminal homicides, the difference becomes much more salient.

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        Surplus_Knowledge   August 22, 2013 5:07 am / Reply

        I’m still wondering the exact reason why you believe 338,700 of something qualifies as that “almost never” happening. Why did you choose these words? I see you’ve edited this to “rarely,” but rarely compared to what? I don’t see any other edits addressing my other points, either.

        My comparison to gun murders was based upon this blog (and many in the gun control movement) bringing up the amount of gun murders as being an important reason for more gun control and gun control laws, despite the fact that said gun murders happened 7 times less than gun self defense usage in the period under scrutiny. The point isn’t homicide itself, but instead what is more likely to happen with a gun: murder, or self defense.

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          Evan DeFilippis   August 22, 2013 6:19 pm / Reply

          My apologies, many of the edits did not go through.

          Self-defense use by a firearm happens “almost never” relative to the claim cited by the NRA that guns are used in self-defense 12.5 million times a year (Kleck, 1995).

          Also, I tried to make it clear in the above post that it is academically disingenuous to compare all firearm self-defense uses between 2007-2011 (338,700) to the 46,313 homicides during the same period. This is because the 338,700 is primarily composed of self-defense uses in which the victim WOULD NOT have died in the absence of a gun.

          Two potential comparisons are more appropriate:

          1) justifiable homicides vs criminal homicides (the reason being that both result in a guaranteed death, and justifiable homicides are situations in which the death of the crime victim was likely). In this case it’s 230 justifiable homicides in 2010 vs 11,000 criminal homicides in 2010…

          OR self-defense uses per year (55,000-80,000) versus the number of crimes committed with a gun each year (450,000-600,000) according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. Each way, offensive gun use far outweighs defensive gun uses.

          •  avatar
            Scott in Phx AZ   December 11, 2013 11:39 pm

            Wasn’t Klecks claim 2.5 million times per year?

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    Surplus_Knowledge   August 23, 2013 2:53 pm / Reply

    Also, I tried to make it clear in the above post that it is academically disingenuous to compare all firearm self-defense uses between 2007-2011 (338,700) to the 46,313 homicides during the same period. This is because the 338,700 is primarily composed of self-defense uses in which the victim WOULD NOT have died in the absence of a gun.

    And I tried to make it clear in my above post that I’m not comparing the likelihood of someone dying during a defensive situation, but instead comparing the parent theory of “what happens” when a gun comes into play; murder or self defense. The anti-gun lobby continuously vilifies guns as weapons of murder, but my point is that this vilification is unfair because they’re 7 times more likely to be used in a self defense situation (which may or may not result in a death, that’s beside the point), than used in a criminal murder.

    •  avatar
      Paul Morphy   August 23, 2013 5:23 pm / Reply

      Again, the comparison you make is unfair. Guns are 7 times more likely to be used in a self defense situation relative to CRIMINAL MURDER. That’s an insane comparison. A more appropriate comparison would be to compare self-defense uses to crimes aided by a weapon, for which it’s already been pointed out weighs heavily in favor of gun opponents.

      •  avatar
        Surplus Knowledge   August 23, 2013 7:44 pm / Reply

        Guns are 7 times more likely to be used in a self defense situation relative to CRIMINAL MURDER. That’s an insane comparison.

        I fail to see why you and the other poster find this such an incredulous statement. Mass shootings and “gun deaths” are the rallying call behind gun control laws these days. No one talks about how we need to regulate magazine sizes or “assault weapons” because of how criminals possess firearms during the commission of a non-fatal crime. It’s all about the deaths. Bloomberg’s summer gun control tour was themed “No More Names,” featuring Slate’s list of individuals who have died since the Newtown massacre, not a list of armed robbery victims.

        Yet despite all these firearm deaths, according to statistics, self defense is still more prevalent a use of a gun than causing a death. How can gun control activists attack guns as “instruments of death” when they’re used way more often for non-fatal self defense usage?

        A more appropriate comparison would be to compare self-defense uses to crimes aided by a weapon, for which it’s already been pointed out weighs heavily in favor of gun opponents.

        I fully admitted that guns are used more often for what were termed “non-fatal firearm victimizations/incidents” than self defense. The statistics support this. Self defense is still a more common use of a gun than murder, though, which puts a whole new perspective on what is more likely to happen with a gun: murder, self-defense, or “non-fatal firearm victimizations/incidents.”

        •  avatar
          Devin Hughes   August 24, 2013 2:31 pm / Reply

          The reason why Evan and the other dude find your comparison so incredulous is that you are comparing two things of different magnitudes. You can either compare self-defense gun deaths to homicides, or compare self-defense uses to uses in crimes. The first compares deaths to deaths, the second uses to uses. Comparing deaths to uses makes no sense. To provide an admittedly on the fly analogy:

          Imagine that there has just been a battle, and the general asks his aide how his troops fared. The aide replies, “Well, we suffered 11,000 thousand casualties.” The general is disheartened by the news, but asks “How many casualties did we inflict on the opposing army?” The aide proudly replies “We pointed our guns at the enemy nearly 100,000 times, which is more than 7 times the number of casualties they inflicted on us.” The general facepalms in disgust.

          The moral: comparing uses to deaths provides no valuable information. Either compare uses to uses, or deaths to deaths.

          •  avatar
            Jeremy Smith   October 24, 2013 2:19 pm

            Saying the only accurate way to measure self defense uses it by comparing justified homicides to non-justified, would require that only instances of where the victim and offender were armed at the same time. To say guns are never used in self defense, and then use instances where no gun was available for the victim, of course you come out with the conclusion you have.

          •  avatar
            Devin Hughes   October 24, 2013 3:01 pm

            Jeremy: You would be absolutely right if I actually said what you claimed I said. I didn’t. To quote myself: “Either compare uses to uses, or deaths to deaths.” Either is perfectly valid. We did both in the above post, and both comparisons supported our conclusions.

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            Jeremy Smith   October 26, 2013 6:03 am

            Well unfortunately the conclusion reached in this blog is loaded. They specifically chose a counterpoint that was weak and used data provided, by a biased sourced, that supported what they wanted it to. In fact the more of this blog i read the more disenfranchised I am from accepting any of their sources. They even contradict themselves from this post and their recent one regarding gun myths. In this post they claim you can’t look at guns per capita in compare it to a drop in homicides, but in the recent post they use a study that claims guns per capita have a direct impact on homicide rates? Then they ignore solid studies even done by the CDC that show Defensives uses of firearms are more common the violent crimes committed with a firearm. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2013/06/handguns_suicides_mass_shootings_deaths_and_self_defense_findings_from_a.html . You missed my point in order to have a better more accurate analysis of wether guns are used more defensively, would require also to take in account how often was a gun in the hands of the victims of the crime. (example) you do a study of ten violent crime committed with a firearm, and only in 3 of those crimes were the victims armed. Then out of those three, only two were successful in prevent the crime with their firearm. and then your conclusion is firearms are only used 4 timed to commit crimes then for defense. That is not a very accurate study. Which is one of the many reason we can not have an accurate calculation of how they are bing used especially if your gonna argue that only 35% of homes have guns in them.

          •  avatar
            Devin Hughes   October 26, 2013 3:29 pm

            Jeremy: The reason we ignore the CDC “study” (it wasn’t actually a study, but was rather a review of the literature on the subject) is that the portion you reference was written by Gary Kleck, who was citing himself when he arrived at those numbers. The underlying studies, as we point out above, are absurdly flawed. Garbage in (Kleck’s studies), garbage out (the portion of the CDC study you reference).

            This is why we focused on property crimes. It would be near impossible to formulate a study that accurately showed how many people carry guns around with them outside their house (at least I have yet to see one, as people with a gun may or may not choose to carry it with them on that particular day), but we know with a very high degree of confidence how many households have guns in them, and we know with a relatively high degree of confidence how often those guns are used in self-defense during a break-in. As we mention above, with these two statistics, it is impossible to say that guns are an effective deterrent.

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            freeballer   November 6, 2013 2:05 am

            Its amazing how many gun advocates cite the new cdc study as some sort of nail in gun control’s coffin.. Its clear if you read it, its a stepping stone to further research, funding and education. It says several times the data is conflicting, and more study is required… But i imagine when more studies come out, the nra and gun advocates will simply shrug it off as more “liberal” propoganda.

            … But why take my word for it? read it, in its entirety.. Don’t rely on “conservative” / libertarian media…

            “CONCLUSION

            The research agenda proposed in this report is intended as an initial— not a conclusive or all-encompassing—set of questions critical to devel- oping the most effective policies to reduce the occurrence and impact of firearm-related violence in the United States. No single agency or re- search strategy can provide all the answers. This report focuses on the public health aspects of firearm violence; the committee expects that this research agenda will be integrated with research conducted from criminal justice and other perspectives to provide a much fuller knowledge base to underpin our nation’s approach to dealing with this very important set of societal issues.”

  4.  avatar
    Douglas   October 9, 2013 3:22 pm / Reply

    Duggan’s study is inherently flawed.

    “Duggan (2000, p. 1110): Duggan makes the adjustment for the standard errors in column 2 of table 12. Murder and violent crime show statistically significant drops after the adjustment, but Duggan knows that there are also typos for his rape and assault results. Simply divide the coefficients for rape (=-.052/.0232) and assault (=-.0699/.0277) and you will see that they have t’s greater than 2. Thus for all the violent crime categories but robbery the adjustment does not change the conclusion. In addition, there is the issue of looking at before and after averages versus before and after trends, with the symmetry in the changes in trends before and after the before and after averages do not show a big change even though the change in trends is very big, especially for robbery.

    About half of his violent crime rate estimates show statistically significant drops in violent crime from right-to-carry laws and none of his results show a statistically significant increase.”

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