Guns and Crime Prevention

In getting reliable information to convey to students about the effectiveness of guns for self-defense, I heard or read many different “counts” of the number of lives saved by guns. I needed a solid unbiased source as a reference point and found one in GunFacts.Info. This website is non-biased. It just simply gathers the numbers and reports them. They debunk the five (5) most popular myths of gun usage, identifying using tangible results how many lives are saved by guns. And in case you still want to argue this point, this article includes the bibliography at the end. There are even some graphs which visually substantiate their findings.

Myth 1: Private ownership of guns is not effective in preventing crime

Fact: Every year, people in the United States use guns to defend themselves against criminals an estimated 2,500,000 times – more than 6,500 people a day, or once every 13 seconds. (1)  Of these instances, 15.7% of the people using firearms defensively stated that they “almost certainly” saved their lives by doing so.

Fact: Even the government’s estimate, which has a major methodology problem, (2) estimates people defend themselves 235,700 times each year with guns. (3)

Fact: The number of times per year an American uses a firearm to deter a home invasion alone is 498,000. (4)

Fact: In 83.5% (2,087,500) of these successful gun defenses, the attacker either threatened or used force first, proving that guns are very well suited for self-defense. (5)

Fact: The rate of defensive gun use (DGU) is six times that of criminal gun use. (6)

Fact:  Of the 2,500,000 times citizens use guns to defend themselves, 92% merely brandish their gun or fire a warning shot to scare off their attackers. (7)

Fact:  In most of the remaining 8% of defensive gun uses, a citizen never wounds his or her attacker (they fire warning shots), and in less than one in a thousand instances is the attacker killed. (8)

(Note: regarding the two facts above, brandishing or firing a warning shot is NEVER recommended. Depending on your state, you may be charged with “brandishing”, “terroristic threats” or “reckless endangerment”. The reason YOU may be charged is because some of these criminals are savvy enough to call the police first and say you were the aggressor.)

Fact: 41% of justifiable homicides using a gun were by private citizens, the others by law enforcement. (9)

Fact: In one local review of firearm homicide, more than 12% were civilian legal defensive homicides. (10)

Fact: For every accidental death (802), suicide (16,869) or homicide (11,348) (11) with a firearm (29,019), 13 lives (390,000) (12) are preserved through defensive use.

Fact: When using guns in self-defense, 91.1% of the time, not a single shot is fired. (13)

Fact: After the implementation of Canada’s 1977 gun controls prohibiting handgun possession for protection, the “breaking and entering” crime rate rose 25%, surpassing the American rate. (14)

Myth 2: The small number of self-defense killings shows that private gun ownership does nothing

Fact: Most DGUs do not involve firing a gun. The average private gun owner who uses guns for self defense take non-fatal actions, such as brandishing the weapon. In other instances, they may fire a warning shot or intentionally wound their attacker. (15)

While brandishing a gun is NEVER recommended, this graph shows how effective it is at 76% of the time at thwarting a violent attack.

Myth 3: Only police should have guns

Fact: “Most criminals are more worried about meeting an armed victim than they are about running into the police.” (16)

Fact: For kids in schools, police end such attacks only 27% of the time. (17)

Fact: 11% of police shootings kill an innocent person — about 2% of shootings by citizens kill an innocent person. (18)

Fact: Police have trouble keeping their own guns.  Hundreds of firearms are missing from the FBI and 449 of them have been involved in crimes. (19)

Fact: People who saw the helplessness of the L.A. Police Department during the 1992 Rodney King riots or the looting and violence in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina know that citizens need guns to defend themselves.

Fact: “In actual shootings, citizens do far better than law enforcement on hit potential. They hit their targets and they don’t hit other people. I wish I could say the same for cops. We train more, they do better.” (20)

Myth 4: You are more likely to be injured or killed using a gun for self-defense

Fact: You are far more likely to survive a violent assault if you defend yourself with a gun. (21)

This graph shows how victims are killed or injured by various means while attempting to protect them themselves during a violent attack. One reason gun usage injuries or deaths is so low is because many gun owners have gotten educated and trained on proper gun usage.

Myth 5: Guns are not effective in preventing crime against women

Fact: Of the 2,500,000 annual self-defense cases using guns, more than 7.7% (192,500) are by women defending themselves against sexual abuse.

Fact: When a woman was armed with a gun or knife, only 3% of rape attacks were completed, compared to 32% when the woman was unarmed. (22)

Fact: The probability of serious injury from an attack is 2.5 times greater for women offering no resistance than for women resisting with guns. Men also benefit from using guns, but the benefits are smaller: Men are 1.4 times more likely to receive a serious injury. (23)

Fact: 28.5% of women have one or more guns in the house. (24)

Fact: 41.7% of women either own or have convenient access to guns. (25)

Fact: In 1966, the city of Orlando responded to a wave of sexual assaults by offering firearms training classes to women. Rapes dropped by nearly 90% the following year.

Fact: Firearm availability appears to be particularly useful in avoiding rape. The United Kingdom virtually banned handgun ownership. During the same period handgun ownership in the United States steadily rose. Yet the rate of rape decreased in the United States and skyrocketed in the other countries, as shown in the table.

As can be seen, because Australia and the UK ban guns, in this eight year period studied, rape rates have increased in these countries, whereas rape rates have declined in the U.S.

Fact: More Americans believe having a gun in the home makes them safer. This belief grows every year the survey is taken. (26)

Fact: Arthur Kellerman, a researcher whose work is often cited by gun control groups, said “If you’ve got to resist, your chances of being hurt are less the more lethal your weapon. If that were my wife, would I want her to have a .38 Special in her hand? Yeah.” (27)


  1. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Kleck and Gertz, Fall 1995
  2. This ongoing victimization survey involved people from the government personally interviewing victims. Some criminologists believe this induces self-reporting biases (e.g., people don’t like to tell the government they own a gun). Thus, this low number from the National Crime Victimization Survey is considered to be an outlier and not reliable.
  3. Firearm Violence, 1993-2011, Bureau of Justice Statistics, May 2013
  4. Estimating intruder-related firearm retrievals in U.S. households, 1994. Robin M. Ikeda, Violence and Victims, Winter 1997
  5. Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun, Kleck, Gertz, 1995
  6. Crime statistics: Bureau of Justice Statistics – National Crime Victimization Survey (2005).  DGU statistics: Targeting Guns, Kleck (average of 15 major surveys where DGUs were reported)
  7. Targeting Guns, Gary Kleck, Aldine de Gruyter, 1997, from the National Self-Defense Survey
  8. Targeting Guns, Gary Kleck, Aldine de Gruyter, 1997, from the National Self-Defense Survey
  9. FBI Expanded Homicide Tables 14 and 15, 2017
  10. Death by Gun: One Year Later, Time Magazine, May 14, 1990
  11. Unintentional Firearm Deaths, 2001, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
  12. Targeting Guns, Gary Kleck, Aldine de Gruyter, 1997
  13. National Crime Victimization Survey, 2000
  14. Residential Burglary: A Comparison of the United States, Canada and England and Wales, Pat Mayhew, National Institute of Justice., Wash., D.C., 1987
  15. Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun, The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 86, No.1, 1995
  16. Armed and Considered Dangerous: A Survey of Felons and Their Firearms, Wright and Rossi, 1986
  17. Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks, United States Secret Service and United States Department of Education, 2002
  18. Shall issue: the new wave of concealed handgun permit laws, Clayton Cramer, David Kopel, Independence Institute Issue Paper. October 17, 1994
  19. ABC News, July 17, 2001
  20. Sheriff Greg White, Cole County, Missouri, Guns to be allowed on campus?, KRCG News, July 31, 2009
  21. The Value of Civilian Handgun Possession as a Deterrent to Crime or a Defense Against Crime, Don B. Kates, 1991 American Journal of Criminal Law
  22. Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, Rape Victimization in 26 American Cities, U.S. Department of Justice, 1979
  23. National Crime Victimization Survey, Department of Justice 2001 National Gun Policy Survey of the National Opinion Research Center: Research Findings, Smith, T, National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, December 2001.

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