Defensive Gun Uses Save the U.S. One Trillion Dollars Per Year

Our fearless leader suggested that I take a look at the flip side of the anti’s latest attack on our freedoms (a recycled strategy from the Clinton-era Public Health model of gun control): the monetary cost of gun violence. For example, the Center for American Progress touted the “fact” that the Virginia Tech massacre cost taxpayers $48.2 million (including autopsy costs and a fine against Virginia Tech for failing to get their skates on when the killer started shooting). It’s one of the antis’ favorite tricks: cost benefit analysis omitting the benefit side of the equation. So what are the financial benefits of firearm ownership to society? Read on . . .

In my post Dennis Henigan on Chardon: Clockwork Edition, I did an analysis of how many lives were saved annually in Defensive Gun Uses (DGUs). I used extremely conservative numbers. Now I am going to use some less conservative ones.

The Kleck-Gertz DGU study estimated that there are between 2.1 and 2.5 million DGUs a year in the U.S. The Ludwig-Cook study came up with 1.46 million. So let’s split the difference and call it 1.88 million DGUs per year.

In the K-G article Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun, 15.7 percent of people who had a DGU reckoned they almost certainly saved a life. Ignoring the ‘probably’ and ‘might have’ saved a life categories for simplicity, 15.7 percent of 1.88 million gives us 295,160 lives saved annually.

[NB: A number of people have questioned the 15.7 percent stat. Remember: many states regard the mere act of pulling a gun on someone a form of deadly force. In addition, virtually every jurisdiction in the nation requires that an armed self-defender must be in "reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm" before using (or in some places even threatening to use) deadly force.]

How can we get a dollar figure from 1.88 million defensive gun uses per year? Never fear, faithful reader, we can count on the .gov to calculate everything.

According to the AZ state gov’t, in February of 2008 a human life was worth $6.5 million. Going to the Inflation Calculator and punching in the numbers gives us a present value of $6.93 million.

So figuring that the average DGU saves one half of a person’s life—as“gun violence” predominantly affects younger demographics—that gives us $3.465 million per half life.

Putting this all together, we find that the monetary benefit of guns (by way of DGUs) is roughly 1.02 trillion dollars per year. Trillion. With a ‘T’.

I was going to go on and calculate the costs of incarceration ($50K/year) saved by people killing 1527 criminals annually, and then look at the lifetime cost to society of an average criminal (something in excess of $1 million). But all of that would be a drop in the bucket compared to the $1,000,000,000,000 ($1T) annual benefit of gun ownership.

When compared to the (inflation adjusted from 2002) $127.5 billion ‘cost’ of gun violence calculated by by our Ludwig-Cook buddies, guns save a little more than eight times what they “cost.”

Which, I might add, is completely irrelevant since “the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.”