For years, firearm groups have claimed there are more than 2 million “defensive gun uses” annually in America. In fact, this claim is a major point for fighting against gun control laws.
Criminologist Gary Kleck originally published these finding in 1998, along with Marc Gertz, as the National Defense Survey.
The study involved 5,000 randomly generated phone surveys in 48 states. In the survey, they asked respondents if they had used a gun in the last five years in self-defense. This included defense of self or property at home or elsewhere. Surveyors also asked whether the use was against humans or animals. However, they eliminated military, police and security actions.
Kleck found 222 defensive gun uses, which he detailed in a 2001 book called “Armed.” Respondents had to state what crime was being committed and how the gun was used, whether fired, drawn or merely mentioned to stop the attack. Additionally, Kleck claims they removed any questionable responses. Kleck concluded that defense gun uses in America ranged between 2.2 and 2.5 million times a year.
Second Look at Defensive Gun Uses
In April, Kleck discovered evidence that supports his study on defensive gun uses. However, Robert VerBruggen of National Review noticed mistakes, as surveys were limited to small numbers of states per year. Kleck issued a revised version of his paper.
Kleck based his new report on surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. According to Kleck, at least 20 surveys have sampled Americans about defensive gun uses. In the paper, Kleck says “private surveys generally yielded annual estimates of the number of DGUs by adults against other persons in the 1-3 million range.”
This shows that gun control advocates claim that defensive gun uses are rare is wrong. These claims come from the National Crime Victimization Survey, which yield “annual estimates of just 64,615 DGUs (McDowall and Wiersema 1994), only about 3 percent of the typical result of 20 other surveys,” according to Kleck.
Problems with National Crime Vicimization Survey
Kleck says there are three problems with the National Crime Victimization Survey. First, it is not anonymous. Second, the federal government conducted the survey. Third, respondents are told the information will be provided to the Department of Justice. And finally, respondents had to say where the incident happened before discussing what happened.
“In most states, for all but the few people who have carry permits, it is illegal to possess a firearm off their own property, and thus most Rs could not report a DGU carried out in a public place without confessing to the crime of unlawful carrying,” wrote Kleck. “Under these circumstances, there is a sound basis for doubting whether Rs would be willing to report incidents in which they had pointed a gun, and possibly shot at, another human being, regardless of the justification.”
While the battle over guns is far from over, this study shows that defensive gun uses happen throughout America, and is the best argument for concealed carry.