This is a fact the drive-by media will never report.
The most effective lie is the lie by omission. Tell part of the truth but not all of it. This propaganda technique works particularly well with an audience eager to believe the lie.
The US mass media lies to us a lot, in exactly this way: They feed us selected facts without proving their true context.
I follow the news about armed defense. I notice the things that are so consistently not said that the omissions must be deliberate. In this article, I will present the most accurate facts I can find. I list the sources where I got those facts. I give you my opinion about what those facts mean in full context. I want you to be able to make up your own mind about guns, and the media that reports on them.
Let us first look at how firearms are used ….
Shooting for fun-
The most common use of a firearm is recreation: training, practice, competition, and hunting. The industry trade group for the shooting sports is the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The NSSF estimates there will be 12 billion firearms cartridges sold in the US civilian market in 2021. That seems like a lot of ammunition at 32 million cartridges used a day for fun. From another perspective, it is only 36 cartridges per person in an entire year. New gun owners are having trouble finding enough ammunition to take classes and practice.
Guns in the US-
Ammunition lasts for decades. Firearms are equally persistent if they are maintained. We have about 434 million firearms in civilian hands. The reported numbers vary, but when people show their sources, that is the best number I’ve seen. Think about that number when someone says they are going to “round up all the guns,” and laugh at them.
Living with a gun-
About 140 million of us (42 percent) live with a gun in our home. Gun owners are everywhere and in every lifestyle. Firearms fit many purposes. Like shoes, the gun owner has to find a gun that fits her body and her intended use. Most guns are seldom if ever used and sit in storage day after day.
Citizens carry concealed-
The laws about carrying concealed vary widely from state to state. A few states only let politicians, judges and retired law enforcement officers carry a firearm in public. The majority of states require a license and charge hefty fees before ordinary citizens can carry concealed. In contrast, 21 states have constitutional carry. In those states, citizens may carry in public without a permit, though the particular details vary from state to state.
Not every adult will exercise their right to carry a gun, even when it relatively cheap to do so. A few years ago, I estimated that about 10 percent of the population would carry if we adopted permit-less carry laws. About 20 million adults already have their carry permits. Concealed carry is common rather than rare. We would know if citizens with guns were inherently dangerous given that there are such a large number of legal guns on the street. We’ll talk about their remarkable safety record in a moment.
Armed citizens defend themselves at home, at work, and in pubic. Government numbers vary depending on which report you read. Reports vary from a low of 500 thousand to a high of 3 million cases of armed defense each year. I use 1.5 million as the best average. These estimates on the frequency of armed defense include numerous reports from the CDC (United States Center for Disease Control). Note how infrequently the news media covers stories of citizen self-defense.
Most armed self-defense incidents end with no shots fired. Criminals avoid armed victims. Most criminals stop and run away when an armed citizen simply presents his or her gun.
As I studied it, the question of armed defense was harder to answer than I thought. Part of that confusion is that we’re not sure about the question. Was it an example of armed defense if the defender shoots but misses her attacker? Is it armed defense if the robber runs away when he merely sees that grandma has a gun? Was it the gun pointed at him, the gun in her hand, or the gun on the wall that made the robber run away from grandma? In each of these scenarios, the presence of the firearm deterred the criminal. But not all of these scenarios will be included in the reporting of “crimes prevented by an armed defender.”
There were over 1.2 million reported cases of violent crime in the United States in 2019. Those are cases of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. 800 thousand of those violent crimes were attacks with a deadly weapon. Of all those violent crimes, only 8 percent were committed with a firearm. The rest of the time criminals used another weapon or use fists and feet. About 140 thousand of the violent crimes were violent sexual assaults. Rape makes up about 11 percent of violent crime.
You might notice that the number of self-defense incidents is slightly larger than the number of reported criminal assaults. That is because of the tendency to overreport some things and underreport others. The criminal might have intended to kick down your door, hit you, and take your purse. That crime didn’t happen when you turned around with a gun in your hand as the robber ran up to you. An incident like that might get reported as a defensive use of a firearm, but not as an actual crime. We report what happened rather than what might have happened. In addition, some crimes, especially sexual assaults, are not reported to the police.
Armed defense of sexual assault- Ordinary citizens use a firearm to stop sexual assault about 150 thousand times a year. The number may be higher because, as I said, many sexual assaults are not reported. Unfortunately, some women are raped when they are disarmed in so called “gun-free” zones. I know several of these women who have been brave enough to tell their stories. These locations were not “gun-free” when the rapist brought his gun. Even if the rapist does not have a gun, the victims were at greater risk because they were disarmed.
There were about 47 thousand suicides in 2019. Almost exactly half of them were with a firearm. (24 thousand) The rate of suicide does not appear to be correlated with restrictions on firearms.
Gun laws and regulations-
The US Bureau of Alcohol Tabaco and Firearms collects and distributes collections of our firearm laws. We have over 23 thousand firearms laws and regulations so far. We should have achieved a peaceful paradise if ink on paper stopped violent criminals from using guns. We’re always told that the next gun-control law will be the one that finally works. Criminals don’t buy their guns at gun stores or gun shows.
There were 10 thousand cases where one person killed another with a firearm. That includes all types of guns. A handgun was used 6,300 times, though more than 3000 incidents are marked as “firearm unknown”. The vast majority of these incidents are drug gangs fighting over territory. We have to look at drug prohibition if we want to reduce these murders.
Crimes of passion-
There were about 3 thousand deaths where one person not connected with a drug gang killed another person using a firearm. Most were murders rather than accidents. Most of those deaths involve drugs and alcohol in that either the attacker or the defender was intoxicated. We have to talk about recidivism and addiction if we want to reduce the number of these deaths.
Accidental deaths by a firearm-
The US CDC recorded 486 accidental deaths involving a firearm. In both adults and teens, there is often an uncertainty between an accidental death and a suicide. Accidental deaths from a firearm are extremely rare, about four accidental deaths every three days. Each death is a tragedy, but only 1-in-350 accidental deaths involved a firearm.
Lethal self-defense by honest citizens-
Citizens used a firearm to stop criminal activity about four thousand times a day. They shot and killed the criminal 344 times in the entire year of 2019, less than once a day. As already notice, 140 million families live with a gun in the home, yet only 1-in-400,000 of them legally used that firearm in lethal self-defense today. The other 399,999 guns in family homes were used for deterrence.
Lethal use of a firearm by a law enforcement officer while on duty-
Law enforcement officers shot and killed 340 criminals. That may seem like a large number but consider that there are about 700 thousand law enforcement officers in the US. I think that is the full-time equivalent number of sworn officers who have arrest powers. Only one officer in two thousand shot and killed a criminal.
Law-abidingness of law enforcement officers-
Police officers are about 37 times more law abiding than the average citizen. That is probably a conservative estimate since officers are frequently accused of breaking the law as they arrest criminal offenders.
Nonviolence of licensed concealed carry permit holder-
Where we have data, we’ve found that people with their concealed carry license are the most law abiding and non-violent segment of society we can find anywhere. Your neighbors who legally carry concealed in public are from 10 to 17 times more law abiding and nonviolent than the police. Different states give us different data, and the data is not consistent on how each violation is considered. For example, some concealed carry holders will lose their carry permit if they have a ticket for driving while intoxicated. I wish more states would record information like that.
Who makes mistakes-
Compared to the police, civilians with a gun were five times less likely to shoot innocent bystanders. That makes sense given the different goals of police and civilians. The civilian wants to get away from danger while the police officer has to move toward it and control the scene. Also, the civilian knows things the policeman doesn’t know. You know who belongs in your home at a glance. The policeman doesn’t know that and figuring it out takes some time. The claim that civilians shoot indiscriminately is propaganda fueled by TV cop shows. The reality is that your neighbors who own guns care about every shot they fire.
Resistance is essential-
Women were two-and-a-half times less likely to be injured if they resist their attacker with a firearm than if they do not resist. Men were also less likely to be injured if they resisted with a firearm, but the difference was smaller. That data describes the immediate injuries during the attack. I suspect the psychological injury due to victimization is smaller for those who resist, but I do not have reliable data to support that claim.
That is a lot of information. It tells me that gun owners are remarkably law abiding and non-violent. With surprisingly few exceptions, our gun owning neighbors act the way we want them to act. They save lives thousands of times a day because they are armed and resisted their attackers. We need more people like them. That truth doesn’t match what we see on TV dramas. We spend more time with drama than studying real life. Art imitates life, but not well enough to guide our decisions.