The Debate Over Using Guns for Self Defense

Let’s start by looking at some statistics regarding guns for self defense.

  • People use guns 2.5 million times every year in self defense. This means that guns are used 80 times more to protect lives than to take them.
  • Of those 2.5 million times, the gun owner only waves their gun or fires a warning shot. An attacker is killed or wounded 8% of the time.
  • A study found that the Police shot and killed 1,527 people in one year. This compared to 606 people shot and killed by citizens using guns for self defense.

An innocent person mistaken for a criminal and shot and killed by a citizen in self defense accounted for 2% of that 606.

The Police percentage of innocent people mistaken for a criminal and shot and killed accounted for 11% of their 1,527. That is almost five times higher than the citizen percentage.

Tragedy Prompts Inquiry

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on 14th December 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut shocked the world. Adam Lanza, aged 20, shot his mother dead before driving to the school and shooting dead twenty children and six members of staff. He shot himself in the head as paramedics arrived.

After the tragedy, President Obama asked researchers to assess the existing gun studies and recommend new studies.

Results of the Inquiry

The assessment carried out by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council cited studies carried out between the years of 1988 and 2004. These showed that victims of crime who use guns for self defense suffer consistently less injuries than victims of crime who use whatever is to hand and / or other strategies, such as stalling for time, phoning the Police or using knives or baseball bats for self defense.

In the 2004 study assessed by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, Gary Kleck (renowned Criminologist at Florida State University) and Jongyeon Tark (Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of New Haven) examined if the use of guns as self defense would result in:

  • The loss of property
  • The victim of crime receiving a minor injury
  • The victim of crime receiving a serious injury

Conclusions of the Inquiry

They discovered that using a gun for self defense actually reduced the chance of all three things happening. Using a gun for self defense resulted in an injury in only 10% of incidents.

The Institute also concluded that more research is necessary. The effectiveness of guns used in self defense varies depending on the crime and the circumstances of that crime, as well as the victim and the criminal.

The assessment also reviewed a study done in 2013 which found that since 1999, many more people own guns for self defense than for hunting or other shooting related activities.

The debate will continue.