A. Guns save more lives than they take; prevent more injuries than they inflict
* Guns used 2.5 million times a year in self-defense.
Law-abiding citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals as
many as 2.5 million times every year -- or about 6,850 times a day.1
This means that each year, firearms are used more than 80 times more
often to protect the lives of honest citizens than to take lives.2
* Of the 2.5 million times citizens use their guns to
defend themselves every year, the overwhelming majority merely brandish
their gun or fire a warning shot to scare off their attackers. Less
than 8% of the time, a citizen will kill or wound his/her attacker.3
* As many as 200,000 women use a gun every year to defend themselves against sexual abuse.4
* Even anti-gun Clinton researchers concede that guns are used 1.5 million times annually for self-defense.
According to the Clinton Justice Department, there are as many as 1.5
million cases of self-defense every year. The National Institute of
Justice published this figure in 1997 as part of "Guns in America" -- a
study which was authored by noted anti-gun criminologists Philip Cook
and Jens Ludwig.5
* Armed citizens kill more crooks than do the police. Citizens shoot and kill at least twice as many criminals as police do every year (1,527 to 606).6 And readers of Newsweek
learned that "only 2 percent of civilian shootings involved an innocent
person mistakenly identified as a criminal. The 'error rate' for the
police, however, was 11 percent, more than five times as high."7
* Handguns are the weapon of choice for self-defense. Citizens use handguns to protect themselves over 1.9 million times a year.8 Many of these self-defense handguns could be labeled as "Saturday Night Specials."
B. Concealed carry laws help reduce crime
* Nationwide: one-half million self-defense uses. Every year, as many as one-half million citizens defend themselves with a firearm away from home.9
* Concealed carry laws are dropping crime rates across the country. A comprehensive national study determined in 1996 that violent crime fell after states made it legal to carry concealed firearms. The results of the study showed:
* States which passed concealed carry laws reduced
their murder rate by 8.5%, rapes by 5%, aggravated assaults by 7% and
robbery by 3%;10 and
* If those states not having concealed carry laws had
adopted such laws in 1992, then approximately 1,570 murders, 4,177
rapes, 60,000 aggravated assaults and over 11,000 robberies would have
been avoided yearly.11
* Vermont: one of the safest five states in the country.
In Vermont, citizens can carry a firearm without getting permission...
without paying a fee... or without going through any kind of
government-imposed waiting period. And yet for ten years in a row,
Vermont has remained one of the top-five, safest states in the union --
having three times received the "Safest State Award."12
* Florida: concealed carry helps slash the murder rates in the state.
In the fifteen years following the passage of Florida's concealed carry
law in 1987, over 800,000 permits to carry firearms were issued to
people in the state.13 FBI reports show that the homicide
rate in Florida, which in 1987 was much higher than the national
average, fell 52% during that 15-year period -- thus putting the
Florida rate below the national average. 14
* Do firearms carry laws result in chaos?
No. Consider the case of Florida. A citizen in the Sunshine State is
far more likely to be attacked by an alligator than to be assaulted by
a concealed carry holder.
1. During the first fifteen years that the Florida
law was in effect, alligator attacks outpaced the number of crimes
committed by carry holders by a 229 to 155 margin.
2. And even the 155 "crimes" committed by concealed
carry permit holders are somewhat misleading as most of these
infractions resulted from Floridians who accidentally carried their
firearms into restricted areas, such as an airport.15
C. Criminals avoid armed citizens
* Kennesaw, GA. In 1982,
this suburb of Atlanta passed a law requiring heads of households to
keep at least one firearm in the house. The residential burglary rate
subsequently dropped 89% in Kennesaw, compared to the modest 10.4% drop
in Georgia as a whole.16
* Ten years later (1991), the residential burglary rate
in Kennesaw was still 72% lower than it had been in 1981, before the
law was passed.17
* Nationwide. Statistical
comparisons with other countries show that burglars in the United
States are far less apt to enter an occupied home than their foreign
counterparts who live in countries where fewer civilians own firearms.
Consider the following rates showing how often a homeowner is present
when a burglar strikes:
* Homeowner occupancy rate in the gun control countries
of Great Britain, Canada and Netherlands: 45% (average of the three
* Homeowner occupancy rate in the United States: 12.7%.18
Rapes averted when women carry or use firearms for protection
* Orlando, FL. In 1966-67,
the media highly publicized a safety course which taught Orlando women
how to use guns. The result: Orlando's rape rate dropped 88% in 1967,
whereas the rape rate remained constant in the rest of Florida and the
* Nationwide. In 1979, the Carter
Justice Department found that of more than 32,000 attempted rapes, 32%
were actually committed. But when a woman was armed with a gun or
knife, only 3% of the attempted rapes were actually successful.20
Justice Department study:
* 3/5 of felons polled agreed that "a criminal is not going to mess around with a victim he knows is armed with a gun."21
* 74% of felons polled agreed that "one reason burglars
avoid houses when people are at home is that they fear being shot
during the crime."22
* 57% of felons polled agreed that "criminals are more
worried about meeting an armed victim than they are about running into
1 Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, "Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense With a Gun," 86 The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Northwestern University School of Law, 1 (Fall 1995):164.
Kleck is a professor in the school of criminology and criminal justice
at Florida State University in Tallahassee. He has researched
extensively and published several essays on the gun control issue. His
book, Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America, has become a
widely cited source in the gun control debate. In fact, this book
earned Dr. Kleck the prestigious American Society of Criminology
Michael J. Hindelang award for 1993. This award is given for the book
published in the past two to three years that makes the most
outstanding contribution to criminology.
Even those who don't like
the conclusions Dr. Kleck reaches, cannot argue with his impeccable
research and methodology. In "A Tribute to a View I Have Opposed,"
Marvin E. Wolfgang writes that, "What troubles me is the article by
Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. The reason I am troubled is that they have
provided an almost clear-cut case of methodologically sound research in
support of something I have theoretically opposed for years, namely,
the use of a gun in defense against a criminal perpetrator.... I have
to admit my admiration for the care and caution expressed in this
article and this research. Can it be true that about two million
instances occur each year in which a gun was used as a defensive
measure against crime? It is hard to believe. Yet, it is hard to
challenge the data collected. We do not have contrary evidence."
Wolfgang, "A Tribute to a View I Have Opposed," The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, at 188.
says there is no "contrary evidence." Indeed, there are more than a
dozen national polls -- one of which was conducted by The Los Angeles Times
-- that have found figures comparable to the Kleck-Gertz study. Even
the Clinton Justice Department (through the National Institute of
Justice) found there were as many as 1.5 million defensive users of
firearms every year. See National Institute of Justice, "Guns in
America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms," Research in Brief (May 1997).
for Dr. Kleck, readers of his materials may be interested to know that
he is a member of the ACLU, Amnesty International USA, and Common
Cause. He is not and has never been a member of or contributor to any
advocacy group on either side of the gun control debate.
According to the National Safety Council, the total number of gun
deaths (by accidents, suicides and homicides) account for less than
30,000 deaths per year. See Injury Facts, published yearly by the National Safety Council, Itasca, Illinois.
3Kleck and Gertz, "Armed Resistance to Crime," at 173, 185.
4Kleck and Gertz, "Armed Resistance to Crime," at 185.
5 Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig, "Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms," NIJ Research in Brief (May 1997); available at http://www.ncjrs.org/txtfiles/165476.txt
on the internet. The finding of 1.5 million yearly self-defense cases
did not sit well with the anti-gun bias of the study's authors, who
attempted to explain why there could not possibly be one and a half
million cases of self-defense every year. Nevertheless, the 1.5 million
figure is consistent with a mountain of independent surveys showing
similar figures. The sponsors of these studies -- nearly a dozen -- are
quite varied, and include anti-gun organizations, news media
organizations, governments and commercial polling firms. See also Kleck
and Gertz, supra note 1, pp. 182-183.
6Kleck, Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America, (1991):111-116, 148.
7George F. Will, "Are We 'a Nation of Cowards'?," Newsweek (15 November 1993):93.
8Id. at 164, 185.
9Dr. Gary Kleck, interview with J. Neil Schulman, "Q and A: Guns, crime and self-defense," The Orange County Register
(19 September 1993). In the interview with Schulman, Dr. Kleck reports
on findings from a national survey which he and Dr. Marc Gertz
conducted in Spring, 1993 -- a survey which findings were reported in
Kleck and Gertz, "Armed Resistance to Crime." br>10 One
of the authors of the University of Chicago study reported on the
study's findings in John R. Lott, Jr., "More Guns, Less Violent Crime,"
The Wall Street Journal (28 August 1996). See also John R. Lott,
Jr. and David B. Mustard, "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry
Concealed Handguns," University of Chicago (15 August 1996); and Lott, More Guns, Less Crime (1998, 2000).
11Lott and Mustard, "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns."
12Kathleen O'Leary Morgan, Scott Morgan and Neal Quitno, "Rankings of States in Most Dangerous/Safest State Awards 1994 to 2003," Morgan Quitno Press (2004) at http://www.statestats.com/dang9403.htm.
Morgan Quitno Press is an independent private research and publishing
company which was founded in 1989. The company specializes in reference
books and monthly reports that compare states and cities in several
different subject areas. In the first 10 years in which they published
their Safest State Award, Vermont has consistently remained one of the
top five safest states.
13Memo by Jim Smith, Secretary of State, Florida Department of State, Division of Licensing, Concealed Weapons/Firearms License Statistical Report (October 1, 2002).
murder rate was 11.4 per 100,000 in 1987, but only 5.5 in 2002. Compare
Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Crime in the United States," Uniform Crime Reports, (1988): 7, 53; and FBI, (2003):19, 79.
15 John R. Lott, Jr., "Right to carry would disprove horror stories," Kansas City Star, (July 12, 2003).
16Gary Kleck, "Crime Control Through the Private Use of Armed Force," Social Problems 35 (February 1988):15.
Kleck, "Crime Control," at 15, and Chief Dwaine L. Wilson, City of
Kennesaw Police Department, "Month to Month Statistics: 1991."
(Residential burglary rates from 1981-1991 are based on statistics for
the months of March - October.)
18Kleck, Point Blank, at 140.
19Kleck, "Crime Control," at 13.
20U.S. Department of Justice, Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, Rape Victimization in 26 American Cities (1979), p. 31.
21U.S., Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, "The Armed Criminal in America: A Survey of Incarcerated Felons," Research Report (July 1985): 27.