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The Journal Gazette

Friday, November 06, 2015 10:01 pm

Something strange in gun-use statistics

Nothing must get in the way of Americans being able to defend themselves. we’re told, even if that means putting even more guns in even more hands. Especially if that means putting more guns in more hands.

Those who believe looser gun laws will prevent everything from gas station robberies to mass shootings are fond of quoting a statistic that seems to show a big up-side to our mania for easier access to firearms: Law-abiding citizens use their guns to protect themselves and prevent crimes 2.5 million times a year.

Pretty impressive. Only it isn’t true.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 29,618,300 instances of attempted or completed violent crime during the 2007-11. Using the often-quoted 2.5 million gun defense incidents per year, that would mean there were 12.5 million instances during that five-year period.

But the bureau’s National Crime Victimization Survey showed that of those who were attacked, just 235,700 of those victims – or 0.8 percent – displayed or discharged a firearm to defend themselves. 

Even if they aren’t successfully used often, don’t more guns in more hands mean we’re at least a little bit safer?

Perhaps not. Consider another statistic. The Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit group that advocates regulating guns as a consumer product, cites FBI Uniform Crime Reporting statistics on justifiable homicides – killings done to prevent a felonious assault.

“In 2012,” the center reported, “for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 32 criminal homicides.

“And this ratio, of course, does not take into account the tens of thousands of lives ended in gun suicides or unintentional shootings that year.”

The gun lobby says we need more guns because they’re vital for self-defense.

But in fact, with more guns per person than any other nation on earth, what’s most amazing is how seldom guns are actually used by Americans to protect themselves.