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The Us Department of Justice released numbers on firearms violence for 2011. With the current debate and the impression left that guns are dripping off the American populace, to be gathered up and turned on the innocent with no delay, it’s interesting to see what the real numbers we’re working with are.

Some highlights that I found interesting:

-Between 2007 and 2011, there were 235,700 recorded cases of people defending themselves with firearms from violent attackers, just shy of 1% of victims. Another 103,000 used one to defend against property crime. I didn’t see any numbers on how successful or unsuccessful they were in their self defense.
-Per statistics from 2004, less than two percent of armed criminals say they got their guns at a gun show. Ten percent got one from a store. The rest, in pretty close percentages, either got them from family or friends, or from an illegal source.
-The most common setting for victims of violent crime was their home.
-The most commonly used firearm type in  violent crime is a handgun.
-70% of homicides involved a firearm, but only 8% of other non-fatal violent crimes.

The statistics poke at both the pro- and anti- gun control arguments. On the one hand, assault weapons don’t appear to be the scourge of our society. On the other hand, the surveyed number of times people use firearms in self defense  over a five year period tallies up to what some say occurs every year, or even every few months.

If this is a subject on which you have any opinion, though, I highly recommend looking at the data available. Knowing is still half the battle.

The other half? Judicious application of munitions.

One Comment

  1. The DOJ statistics only report on those individuals identified as victims of reported crimes. The DOJ doesn’t actually survey crime victims on the subject of defensive firearm use. It does ask a lot of other questions, and it does so in an in-person interview by a law enforcement officer. Not all crime victims are going to be eager to tell a law enforcement officer what they did with a gun. The reported number is only those people who were identified as the victims of reported crimes who then volunteered information on their defensive techniques to a law enforcement officer. This number is known to be, less than complete. The question is, how much less than complete? Some interviewees will not go out of their way to tell the law enforcement officer that they used a gun. Other people who used a gun, will not report the incident to law enforcement at all. Many crime attempts are not reported to law enforcement, for a variety of reasons.

    When the ex makes a threat over the phone and is told “don’t come around here, I have a gun and I will shoot you” is that a defensive gun use? Many people don’t count it as a defensive gun use until the ex is dead on the ground. The real die hard gun control advocates say that it still isn’t a defensive gun use, because he is a “family member, friend or aquaintence” and try to describe that killing as a tragedy. Is it a defensive gun use to put your hand under your jacket in response to a threat? Does it count if you shout into the back yard “I have a gun and I have called the cops”?

    The defensive gun use number determined by the DOJ doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. The 2 million per year number includes verbal warnings that the person has a guns and other situations we could argue about. A follow on study said that 2 million was the result of overaggressive culling on study responses, and that the real number may be as high as 3 million, but that the real number was closer to 1.5 million based on their methodology. There are other studies ranging from “it’s just a myth” to 2 million.

    On the other hand, the “assault weapon” statistic is fairly reliable. That is something the DOJ is looking directly at, and has good statistics on. So called assault weapons are just not very good crime weapons. Most people who are committing crimes don’t have a lot of money to spend on luxury guns that can not be concealed. They use inexpensive revolvers, and some semi-auto handguns because they are cheap and can be hidden.


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