[DGU = Defensive Gun Use. Make the jump for the map key.] “Gun control proponents want legislation that will restrict access to firearms, cato.org asserts. “The rationale for such legislation is to reduce accidental shootings and the criminal use of guns against people. But if harm reduction is the goal, policymakers should pause to consider how many crimes–murders, rapes, assaults, robberies–are thwarted by ordinary persons who were fortunate enough to have access to a gun. Gun control proponents cannot deny that people use guns successfully against criminals, but they tend to play down how often such events take place. The purpose of this map is to draw more attention to this aspect of the firearms policy debate. Two additional points are worth noting . . .
First, the map is not comprehensive. Criminals will often flee the scene when they discover that their intended target has a gun. With no shots fired, no injuries, and no suspect in custody, news organizations may report nothing at all. Thus, it is important to remember that news reports can only provide us with an imperfect picture of defensive gun use in America. Second, when a citizen is able to shoot an attacker or hold a rapist or robber until the police arrive, it is very likely that more than one crime has been prevented because if the culprit had not been stopped, he could have targeted other citizens as well. The bottom line is that gun owners stop a lot of criminal mayhem every year.
Cato’s admission regarding the map’s lack of comprehensiveness puts the org in the running for The English Understatement of the Year award.
The vast majority of DGUs go completely unreported. Yesterday’s post on a DGU in Chicago is typical; the gun owner didn’t contact police after scaring off his potential attackers—for fear of legal retribution. There may be hundreds of thousands of similar incidents every year.
As we reported in June 2010, experts estimate that Chicago is home to over 100k+ illegal firearms. An unknown percentage are these gun owners are otherwise law-abiding citizens; they possess the weapon for self-defense. Extrapolate that into other gun restrictive jurisdictions (LA, New York City, New Jersey, Hawaii, etc.) and you have an enormous population of gun owners flying under the statistical radar.
What’s more, we can safely assume that the people who own these unregistered weapons live in high crime areas. Which means they have a greater chance of using them for self-defense than the population who own guns legally. The key takeaway: a person who owns a gun illegally is NOT going to report a successful DGU to the po-po.
More generally, there is no reliable data on the number of successful DGUs in the United States. Estimate vary widely. But Cato’s right: if a non-ballistic DGU happens in an urban jungle, and there’s no cop there to arrest anyone it didn’t happen. And yet it did. And it does. Every day of the year. Bottom line: you don’t have to shoot someone to save your life with a gun. But if you have to, you can.