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Americans use a gun in self defense once every 13 seconds, according to a
- The National Self Defense Survey, as conducted by Florida State
University criminologists in 1994, indicates that Americans use guns in
self defense 2,500,000 times per year, which is once every 13 seconds.
- In about 30% of the defensive gun uses, the would-be victim believes
that the gun “almost certainly” or “probably”
saved a life.
- In more than 1/2 of the self defense gun uses, the would-be victim was
under attack by 2 or more criminals, making a firearm the only viable
means of self defense for most people.
- The overwhelming majority of these defensive gun uses were never
reported by the
- Gun ownership
protects 65 lives for every 2 lives lost, and the overwhelming
majority of of those lives lost are due to
criminals who ignore gun bans anyway.
For those who wish to read the peer reviewed and published studies
substantiating these facts, see:
Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun,”
Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, in The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology,
Northwestern University School of Law, Volume 86, Number 1, Fall, 1995
“Guns in the Medical Literature - A Failure of Peer Review.” Dr. Suter,
Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia. March 1994.
An interview with the author of the above referenced study, Dr. Gary
Kleck, can be seen here.
PRIVATE FIREARMS STOP CRIME 2.5 MILLION
TIMES EACH YEAR,
NEW UNIVERSITY SURVEY CONFIRMS
By J. Neil Schulman
In an exclusive interview, Dr. Gary Kleck, criminologist at Florida State
University in Tallahassee and author of "Point Blank: Guns and Violence in
America," a book widely cited in the national gun-control debate, revealed
some preliminary results of the National Firearms Defensive Use Survey which
he and his colleague Dr. Marc Gertz conducted in Spring, 1993. Though he
stresses that the results of the survey are preliminary and subject to future
revision, the survey's results confirm to Kleck's satisfaction his analysis of
previous surveys which show that American civilians commonly use their
privately-owned firearms each year to defend themselves against criminal
attacks, and that such defensive uses significantly outnumber the criminal
uses of firearms in America.
The new survey, conducted by random telephone sampling of 4,978 households
in all the states except Alaska and Hawaii, yield results indicating that
American civilians use their firearms as often as 2.5 million times every year
defending against a confrontation with a criminal, and that handguns alone
account for up to 1.9 million defenses per year. Previous surveys, in Kleck's
analysis, had underrepresented the extent of private firearms defenses because
the questions asked failed to account for the possibility that a particular
respondent might have had to use his or her firearm more than once.
Dr. Kleck will first present his survey results at an upcoming meeting of
the American Society of Criminology, but he agreed to discuss his preliminary
analysis, even though it is uncustomary to do so in advance of complete peer
review, because of the great extent which his earlier work is being quoted in
public debates on firearms public policy. The interview was conducted on
September 14, 1993 by J. Neil Schulman, a novelist, screenwriter, and
journalist who has written extensively on firearms public policy for several
SCHULMAN: Dr. Kleck, I understand that you've recently
conducted a new survey on firearms usage. Can you tell me generally what was
discovered in this that wasn't previously known?
KLECK: Well, the survey mostly generated results pretty consistent with
those of a dozen previous surveys which generally indicates that defensive use
of guns is pretty common and probably more common than criminal uses of guns.
This survey went beyond previous ones in that it provided detail about how
often people who had used a gun had done so. We asked people was the gun used
defensively in the past five years and if so how many times did that happen
and we asked details about what exactly happened. We nailed down that each use
being reported was a bona fide defensive use against a human being in
connection with a crime where there was an actual confrontation between victim
and offender. Previous surveys were a little hazy on the details of exactly
what was being reported as a defensive gun use. It wasn't, for example, clear
that the respondents weren't reporting investigating a suspicious noise in
their back yard with a gun where there was, in fact, nobody there. Our results
ended up indicating, depending on which figures you prefer to use, anywhere
from 800,000 on up to 2.4, 2.5 million defensive uses of guns against human
beings -- not against animals -- by civilians each year.
SCHULMAN: Okay. Let's see if we can pin down some of these figures. I
understand you asked questions having to do with just the previous one year.
Is that correct?
KLECK: That's correct. We asked both for recollections about the preceding
five years and for just what happened in the previous one year, the idea being
that people would be able to remember more completely what had happened just
in the past year.
SCHULMAN: And your figures reflect this?
KLECK: Yes. The estimates are considerably higher if they're based on
people's presumably more-complete recollection of just what happened in the
SCHULMAN: Okay. So you've given us the definition of what a "defense" is.
It has to be an actual confrontation against a human being attempting a crime?
Is that correct?
SCHULMAN: And it excludes all police, security guards, and military
KLECK: That's correct.
SCHULMAN: Okay. Let's ask the "one year" question since you say that's
based on better recollections. In the last year how many people who responded
to the questionnaire said that they had used a firearm to defend themselves
against an actual confrontation from a human being attempting a crime?
KLECK: Well, as a percentage it's 1.33 percent of the respondents. When you
extrapolate that to the general population, it works out to be 2.4 million
defensive uses of guns of some kind -- not just handguns but any kind of a gun
-- within that previous year, which would have been roughly from Spring of
1992 through Spring of 1993.
SCHULMAN: And if you focus solely on handguns?
KLECK: It's about 1.9 million, based on personal, individual recollections.
SCHULMAN: And what percentage of the respondents is that? Just handguns?
KLECK: That would be 1.03 percent.
SCHULMAN: How many respondents did you have total?
KLECK: We had a total of 4,978 completed interviews, that is, where we had
a response on the key question of whether or not there had been a defensive
SCHULMAN: So roughly 50 people out of 5000 responded that in the last year
they had had to use their firearms in an actual confrontation against a human
being attempting a crime?
KLECK: Handguns, yes.
SCHULMAN: Had used a handgun. And slightly more than that had used any gun.
SCHULMAN: So that would be maybe 55, 56 people?
KLECK: Something like that, yeah.
SCHULMAN: Okay. I can just hear critics saying that 50 or 55 people
responding that they used their gun and you're projecting it out to figures of
around 2 million, 2-1/2 million gun defenses. Why is that statistically valid?
KLECK: Well, that's one reason why we also had a five-year recollection
period. We get a much larger raw number of people saying, "Yes, I had a
defensive use." It doesn't work out to be as many per year because people are
presumably not remembering as completely, but the raw numbers of people who
remember some kind of defensive use over the previous five years, that worked
out to be on the order of 200 sample cases. So it's really a small raw number
only if you limit your attention to those who are reporting an incident just
in the previous year. Statistically, it's strictly the raw numbers that are
relevant to the issue.
SCHULMAN: So if between 1 percent to 1-1/3 percent of your respondents are
saying that they defended themselves with a gun, how does this compare, for
example, to the number of people who would respond that they had suffered from
a crime during that period?
KLECK: I really couldn't say. We didn't ask that and I don't think there
are really any comparable figures. You could look at the National Crime
Surveys for relatively recent years and I guess you could take the share of
the population that had been the victims of some kind of violent crime because
most of these apparently are responses to violent crimes. Ummm, let's see. The
latest year for which I have any data, 1991, would be about 9 percent of the
population had suffered a personal crime -- that's a crime with personal
contact. And so, to say that 1 percent of the population had defended
themselves with a handgun is obviously still well within what you would expect
based on the share of the population that had suffered a personal crime of
some kind. Plus a number of these defensive uses were against burglars, which
isn't considered a personal crime according to the National Crime Survey. But
you can add in maybe another 5 percent who'd been a victim of a household
SCHULMAN: Let's break down some of these gun defenses if we can. How many
are against armed robbers? How many are against burglars? How many are against
people committing a rape or an assault?
KLECK: About 8 percent of the defensive uses involved a sexual crime such
as an attempted sexual assault. About 29 percent involved some sort of assault
other than sexual assault. Thirty-three percent involved a burglary or some
other theft at home. Twenty-two percent involved robbery. Sixteen percent
SCHULMAN: Do you have a breakdown of how many occurred on somebody's
property and how many occurred, let's say, off somebody's property where
somebody would have had to have been carrying a gun with them on their person
or in their car?
KLECK: Yes. We asked where the incident took place. Seventy-two percent
took place in or near the home, where the gun wouldn't have to be "carried" in
a legal sense. And then some of the remainder, maybe another 4 percent,
occurred in a friend's home where that might not necessarily involve carrying.
Also, some of these incidents may have occurred in a vehicle in a parking lot
and that's another 4 percent or so. So some of those incidents may have
involved a less-regulated kind of carrying. In many states, for example, it
doesn't require a license to carry a gun in your vehicle so I'd say that the
share that involved carrying in a legal sense is probably less than a quarter
of the incidents. I won't commit myself to anything more than that because we
don't have the specifics of whether or not some of these away-from-home
incidents occurred while a person was in a car.
SCHULMAN: All right. Well, does that mean that approximately a half million
times a year somebody carrying a gun away from home uses it to defend himself
KLECK: That's what it would imply, yes.
SCHULMAN: All right. As many as one-half million times every year somebody
carrying a gun away from home defends himself or herself.
KLECK: Yes, about that. It could be as high as that. I have many different
estimates and some of the estimates are deliberately more conservative in that
they exclude from our sample any cases where it was not absolutely clear that
there was a genuine defensive gun use being reported.
SCHULMAN: Were any of these gun uses done by anyone under the age of 21 or
under the age of 18?
KLECK: Well we don't have any coverage of persons under the age of 18. Like
most national surveys we cover only adults age 18 and up.
SCHULMAN: Did you have any between the ages of 18 and 21?
KLECK: I haven't analyzed the cross tabulation of age with defensive gun
use so I couldn't say at this point.
SCHULMAN: Okay. Was this survey representative just of Florida or is it
representative of the entire United States?
KLECK: It's representative of the lower 48 states.
SCHULMAN: And that means that there was calling throughout all the
KLECK: Yes, except Alaska and Hawaii, and that's also standard practice for
national surveys; because of the expense they usually aren't contacted.
SCHULMAN: How do these surveys make their choices, for example, between
high-crime urban areas and less-crime rural areas?
KLECK: Well, there isn't a choice made in that sense. It's a telephone
survey and the telephone numbers are randomly chosen by computer so that it
works out that every residential telephone number in the lower 48 states had
an equal chance of being picked, except that we deliberately oversampled from
the South and the West and then adjusted after the fact for that
overrepresentation. It results in no biasing. The results are representative
of the entire United States, but it yields a larger number of sample cases of
defensive gun uses. They are, however, weighted back down so that they
properly represent the correct percent of the population that's had a
defensive gun use.
SCHULMAN: Why is it that the results of your survey are so
counter-intuitive compared to police experience?
KLECK: For starters, there are substantial reasons for people not to report
defensive gun uses to the police or, for that matter, even to interviewers
working for researchers like me -- the reason simply being that a lot of the
times people either don't know whether their defensive act was legal or even
if they think that was legal, they're not sure that possessing a gun at that
particular place and time was legal. They may have a gun that's supposed to be
registered and it's not or maybe it's totally legally owned but they're not
supposed to be walking around on the streets with it.
SCHULMAN: Did your survey ask the question of whether people carrying guns
had licenses to do so?
KLECK: No, we did not. We thought that would be way too sensitive a
question to ask people.
SCHULMAN: Okay. Let's talk about how the guns were actually used in order
to accomplish the defense. How many people, for example, had to merely show
the gun, as opposed to how many had to fire a warning shot, as to how many
actually had to attempt to shoot or shoot their attacker?
KLECK: We got all of the details about everything that people could have
done with a gun from as mild an action as merely verbally referring to the gun
on up to actually shooting somebody.
SCHULMAN: Could you give me the percentages?
KLECK: Yes. You have to keep in mind that it's quite possible for people to
have done more than one of these things since they could obviously both
verbally refer to the gun and point it at somebody or even shoot it.
KLECK: Fifty-four percent of the defensive gun uses involved somebody
verbally referring to the gun. Forty-seven percent involved the gun being
pointed at the criminal. Twenty-two percent involved the gun being fired.
Fourteen percent involved the gun being fired at somebody, meaning it wasn't
just a warning shot; the defender was trying to shoot. Whether they succeeded
or not is another matter but they were trying to shoot a criminal. And then in
8 percent they actually did wound or kill the offender.
SCHULMAN: In 8 percent, wounded or killed. You don't have it broken down
KLECK: Wound versus kill? No. Again that was thought to be too sensitive a
question. Although we did have, I think, two people who freely offered the
information that they had, indeed, killed someone.
SCHULMAN: Did anybody respond to a question asking whether they had used
the gun and it was found afterward to be unjustified?
KLECK: We did not ask them that question although we did ask them what
crime they thought was being committed. So in each case the only incidents we
were accepting as bona fide defensive gun uses were ones where the defender
believed that, indeed, a crime had been committed against them.
SCHULMAN: Did you ask any follow-up questions about how many people had
been arrested or captured as a result of their actions?
SCHULMAN: Did you ask any questions about aid in law enforcement, such as
somebody helps a police officer who's not themselves an officer?
KLECK: No. I imagine that would be far too rare an incident to get any
meaningful information out of it. Highly unlikely that any significant share
of these involved assisting law enforcement.
SCHULMAN: The question which this all comes down to is that we already have
some idea, for example from surveys on CCW license holders, how rare it is for
a CCW holder to misuse their gun in a way to injure somebody improperly. But
does this give us any idea of what the percentages are of a person who carries
a gun having to use it in order to defend himself or herself? In other words,
comparing the percentage of defending yourself to the percentage of being
attacked, does this tell us anything?
KLECK: We asked them whether they carried guns at any time but we didn't
directly ask them if they were carrying guns, in the legal sense, at the time
they had used their gun defensively. So we can probably say what fraction of
gun carriers in our sample had used a gun defensively but we can't say whether
they did it while carrying. They may, for example, have been people who at
least occasionally carried a gun for protection but they used a gun
defensively in their own home.
SCHULMAN: So what percentage of gun carriers used it defensively?
KLECK: I haven't calculated it yet so I couldn't say.
SCHULMAN: So if we assume, let's say, that every year approximately 9
percent of people are going to be attacked, and approximately every year that
1 percent of respondents used their guns to defend against an attack, is it
fair to say that around one out of nine people attacked used their guns to
KLECK: That "risk of being attacked" shouldn't be phrased that way. It's
the risk of being the victim of a personal crime. In other words, it involved
interpersonal contact. That could be something like a nonviolent crime like
purse snatching or pickpocketing as well. The fact that personal contact is
involved means there's an opportunity to defend against it using a gun; it
doesn't necessarily mean there was an attack on the victim.
SCHULMAN: Did you get any data on how the attackers were armed during these
KLECK: Yes. We also asked whether the offender was armed. The offender was
armed in 47.2 percent of the cases and they had a handgun in about 13.6
percent of all the cases and some other kind of gun in 4.5 percent of all the
SCHULMAN: So in other words, in about a sixth of the cases, the person
attacking was armed with a firearm.
KLECK: That's correct.
SCHULMAN: Okay. And the remainder?
KLECK: Armed with a knife: 18.1 percent, 2 percent with some other sharp
object, 10.1 percent with a blunt object, and 6 percent with some other
weapon. Keep in mind when adding this up that offenders could have had more
than one weapon.
SCHULMAN: So in approximately five sixths of the cases somebody carrying a
gun for defensive reasons would find themselves defending themselves either
against an unarmed attacker or an attacker with a lesser weapon?
KLECK: Right. About five-sixths of the time.
SCHULMAN: And about one-sixth of the time they would find themselves up
against somebody who's armed with a firearm.
KLECK: Well, certainly in this sample of incidents that was the case.
SCHULMAN: Which you believe is representative.
KLECK: It's representative of what's happened in the last five years.
Whether or not it would be true in the future we couldn't say for sure.
SCHULMAN: Are there any other results coming out of this which are
surprising to you?
KLECK: About the only thing which was surprising is how often people had
actually fired their gun in the incident. Previous surveys didn't have very
many sample cases so you couldn't get into the details much but they had
suggested that a relatively small share of incidents involved the gun being
fired so it was surprising to me that quite so many defenders had used a gun
SCHULMAN: Dr. Kleck, is there anything else you'd like to say at this time
about the results of your survey and your continuing analysis of them?
SCHULMAN: Then thank you very much.
KLECK: You're welcome.
Guns prevent chaos
Lazarus Austin is a junior majoring in history. He can
be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new international poll has revealed that Americans have substantially more
guns than any other country. According to the poll, nine out of 10 Americans
own a gun and possess more than 250 million of the world's 600 million guns.
As expected, many people are using this poll to call for more gun control. Gun
critics seem to think that more guns mean more crime and fatalities. On the
other hand, gun rights supporters claim it is their inalienable right to own a
gun for self-defense or any other legal purpose.
The simple fact of the matter is that the gun critics are just plain wrong.
Time and time again, guns have proven to deter crime, not encourage it.
A new video documentary concerning the St. James Massacre in South Africa was
released this week. In that event, several terrorists attacked a Sunday
morning service with grenades and assault rifles with the intent to kill
However, one of the churchgoers dropped behind a bench, pulled out his .38
revolver, shot back and injured one of the terrorists. As a result, the
terrorists ran away.
Guns are used more for self defense than homicide-a fact, not a myth.
Similar incidents occur all the time in terrorism prone countries like Israel,
but are often thwarted with a violent thing of the past called a gun, that
violent thing that has saved lives, protected the public from its enemies and,
last but not least, helped us win our independence and keep it.
Despite the results of the poll, the gun culture in America is diminishing, in
some places more than others. When I was in New York with my parents, this
summer, I found myself passing time in the magazine section of Wal-Mart while
I was waiting on my parents. When I looked for a gun or hunting magazine there
was none. "Blasphemy!" was the first thought in my head. Down here, we are
used to an entire shelf dedicated to hunting.
After I looked into it, I realized that guns are being
gradually taken away from us all over the country. In Morton Grove, Ill., they
completely prohibited the possession of handguns. What happened? Crime
In response to a high crime rate and the decision by Morton Grove, a city in
Georgia decided to mandate the possession of a firearm in every household.
Crime plummeted, including an 89 percent drop in burglary rates.
In contrast, England and many other countries with strict gun control laws
have much higher crime rates than the United States, while countries with very
little gun control, such as Israel and Switzerland, have very low crime rates.
Gun control proponents repeatedly ignore the facts. The statistics show that
gun control only worsens the problem and that more guns can actually decrease
So, why don't we enact mandatory gun ownership laws all over the country? Who
knows, maybe a few people at Virginia Tech would be grateful right now. But
we'll never know.
Fortunately, over 80 percent of Americans still appreciate the value of guns
and do not support gun control. However, that number is decreasing.
If gun control is ever favored by the majority, the country will descend into
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