David Frum: Guns Don’t Make You Safer. It Says So Right Here.

David Frum has a piece at thedailybeast.com “debunking” the idea of 2.5 million defensive gun uses (DGUs) annually. And he bases his, ahem, argument on a 1997 study by David Hemenway. Interestingly enough, Hemenway published another article that year in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. That one was titled “The Gun Debate’s New Mythical Number: How Many Defensive Uses Per Year?” and Hemenway shared authorship (and presumably scholarship) with Drs. Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig. I mention the second study because in it they dissect what they call the “ridiculous” 2.5 million DGU number, explaining all the ways in which it could have been inflated, talking about false positives yadda, yadda, yadda. So it appears Hemenway has experience working with some dedicated gun rights opponents . . .

It turns out that Cook and Ludwig published still another study in 1997, this one sponsored by the (Clinton) Department of Justice. The third study was titled Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms and also investigated DGUs. I think we can take it as a given that Cook and Ludwig avoided all of the methodological pitfalls that they complained about vis-à-vis the Kleck-Gertz study. So since 2.5 million DGUs is, according to them, “mythical,” what much more down-to-Earth, thoroughly researched and solidly substantiated number did Phil and Jens come up with?

One million, four hundred sixty thousand DGUs per year. That’s right, over 1.4 million.

So maybe that’s why Frum begins his summation with:

I wouldn’t want to suggest that defensive gun use against real dangers … is quite so rare as contact with extra-terrestrials.

Well that’s mighty big of you David, but according to Hemenway’s yuck-it-up example of sampling error, 1.2 million people have been in contact with aliens, so I guess we’ve actually had almost 22% more people involved in DGUs than have been contacted by little green men.

Frum then finishes up his little screed with this gem:

But it’s rare enough that conscientious people should think very hard about exposing themselves, their children, and their loved ones to the large and amply documented dangers of a weapon in the house.

Well let’s do a little math here; from 1999 through 2010 there were 669 . . . no, you know what? Let’s count not just children, but anyone 18 and under for this stat. From ’99 through 2010 there were 1629 accidental firearm deaths among those 18 and younger. Which works out to 135.75/year, so we’ll round up to 136. That means you are 10,375 times more likely to be involved in a defensive gun use than to lose a child or young adult to a gun accident. Given that, how many of those DGUs saved the life of a child? Or their parents?

Who are the conscientious ones, David?