John Lott: Defensive Gun Uses ‘Four or Five Times More Common than Gun Crimes’


A Real Clear Investigations’ column by gun scholar John Lott shows that annual defensive gun uses are “four or five times more common that gun crimes.” Americans who look only at the daily headlines would be surprised to learn that, according to academic estimates, defensive gun uses — including instances when guns are simply shown to deter a crime — are four to five times more common than gun crimes, and far more frequent than the roughly 20,000 murders or fewer each year, with or without a gun. He points to a grouping of 17 surveys that find “between 760,000 defensive handgun uses and 3.6 million defensive uses of any type of gun per year, with an average of about 2 million.” Lott indicated that most people have no idea there are so many defensive gun uses because such uses are not widely reported on the establishment media. Instead, the establishment media appears to focus on gun crimes. He explains: As of Aug. 10, America’s five largest newspapers — the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal — have published a combined total of 10 news stories this year reporting a civilian using a gun to successfully stop a crime, according to a search of the Nexis database of news stories. By contrast, those same newspapers had a total of 1,743 news stories containing the keywords “murder” or “murdered” or “murders” and “gunfire,” “shot,” or “shots.” Including articles with the word “wounded,” the total rises to 2,764. Lott noted that some of the establishment media’s underreporting of defensive gun uses is due to the fact that they rely on outlets like the Gun Violence Archive, which, in turn, relies on media reports to compile data. Yet Lott and other researchers claim media reports are not a sufficient means for tracking defensive gun uses. Professor Gary Mauser of Canada’s Simon Fraser University observes: Media stories cannot be trusted to accurately reflect the number or type of defensive gun uses that actually occur. National surveys find that firearms are rarely fired when used to stop a violent attack. Such cases are unlikely to be reported to the police, and even less likely to found in media stories. Relying upon media stories would greatly underestimate the true number of defensive gun uses.


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