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February 5, 2010

Defensive Gun Uses


A story in the Southern Medical Journal attempts to revitalize the widely discredited theory that a gun in the home increases the risk of firearms-related violence to the gun owner. As with all such stories on this topic, readers should bring a healthy dose of skepticism and understand that the statistics provided are drawn only from those studies researchers decide to consult.

SMJ's conclusion is "based on a review of the available scientific data" and barely mentions defensive gun uses (DGUs). Did researchers include the 1.5 to two million DGUs that occur annually in the United States by law-abiding gun owners? We doubt it. Those estimates are derived from several surveys conducted by Professor Gary Kleck, as well as a survey sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice. Most DGUs, such as brandishing a gun to ward off a home invader, are never reported. Realizing this, Dr. Kleck specifically developed his surveys to determine a more accurate estimate of DGUs.

Over the last two decades, accidents and intentional shootings involving firearms have decreased greatly while during the same period firearms ownership in America has increased. Accidental fatalities in the last 20 years have dropped by 42 percent overall, with a 77 percent decrease among youth 14 years old and under, according to the National Safety Council.