Memo to The Trace: Armed Self-Defense is NOT About Statistics

The right to keep and bear arms is a natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right. As such, it’s no more subject to the democratic process than the right not to be a slave. If 99 out of 100 American gun owners wanted to ban firearms, the remaining one percenters [sic] would still have a right to keep and bear arms. Even if owning a gun put them, their family or their neighbors at risk. In other words, the right to keep and bear arms is not subject to arguments about social utility. Gun control advocates don’t – can’t accept this, and never will. And so we get BS like this from our good friends at thetrace.org . . .

As my family and friends’ experiences — and the hard numbers — show, the rationale that owning a firearm protects a person from crime is not supported by the facts. For starters, the type of crime most vividly feared by those who keep guns at the ready in their residences is relatively rare. While estimates for the number of home invasions occurring in the United States vary, ranging from 1.6 to 3.7 million annually, the figures for the most meaningful category — burglaries resulting in homicides — are very low, with the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) indicating that there are fewer than 100 of them in a given year. Instances in which someone fends off a robber are also rare. (Across all categories, there were a total of 1,600 defense gun uses recorded in 2014.) In comparison, according to the BJS, more than 200,000 firearms are stolen from household burglaries and property crimes each year.

Our man Leghorn and the great Bruce Krafft have debunked the antis’ manipulation of statistics to further their civilian disarmament agenda. And will continue to do so; if only because gun control advocates will never stop feeding the media misinformation and attempting to dupe the general public. In this case, writer Devin Hughes focuses on “the type of crime most vividly feared by those who keep gun at the ready.” According to Hughes, “burglaries resulting in homicides” are “the most meaningful category” of home invasions.

By doing so, Hughes is suggesting that other types of burglaries are less “meaningful.” That’s a patently absurd (if hidden) assertion. Using his his low estimate of home invasions (presented without citation), Hughes would have his readers believe that 1,599,900 burglaries are not worth defending by force of arms. Tell that to a woman whose home invasion led to rape. Note: “a” woman. The right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. If one woman wishes to own a gun to shoot a rapist who enters her home, she has that right.

Set aside the possibility of a home invasion leading to torture or grievous bodily harm. Set aside the psychological trauma and economic impact of a home invasion. Set aside the fact that “home invasions” are a subset of the 8.6m property crime offenses in the U.S. per year. Even if we just consider the odds of a home invader killing a resident – 1 out of 16,000 using Hughes’ low estimate of 100 homicides per 1.6m home invasions – all Americans have the right to protect themselves against homicidal home invaders with a gun or guns.

The key consideration: gun owners [rightly] view the odds of dying at the hands of a home invader to be binary. Either it happens to them or it doesn’t. No matter how remote the possibility, millions of Americans want to have a gun to defend themselves and their families. In the same way that millions of Americans have a fire extinguisher in their home to deal with the [almost exactly] equal risk of a residential fire.

Even if criminals were attracted to gun-free zones (they aren’t) and having a gun provided an advantage over other means of self-defense (it doesn’t), the evidence still overwhelmingly demonstrates that a firearm in the home — especially a handgun — dramatically increases the risk of homicide, suicide, or fatal accident. On average, a gun is far more likely to harm you or someone you love than protect you.

The only possible answer to this is … so what?

Gun owners know that a gun in the home presents risks. They balance the risk of homicide, suicide or a fatal accident against the risk of being defenseless against home invaders (plural). Just as they balance driving against the risk of themselves or family members being injured or dying in a car crash. That’s without mentioning the risk of government tyranny, or the pleasures of hunting and plinking. Or the fact that Americans don’t have to justify gun ownership to anyone.

That’s the fact of the matter, whether Mr. Hughes wishes to acknowledge it or not.

comments

  1. avatar Jim Bullock says:

    Oh, the myriad errors of arguing the counter-factual. Boneheads.

    Along with the profound selection bias in extracting numbers from the available stats, the trace-guy makes no attempt to address the things that never got recorded. So, the home invasion that never happened because they know there’s a gun there. The invasion that stops with the audible clack-clack of a slide, so doesn’t count as such a grievous thing. Etc.

    1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

      Or the home invasion that doesn’t happen because the people of dubious character who would do it in the first place would think twice because there may be resident who’s not willing to let them do anything and everything that they want.

      Also, this poor lady needed a way to get this guy out of her house. I hope he goes away for a long time for what he did, but I have my reservations and doubts it will actually happen and he will get much more than a slap on the wrist.

  2. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

    She needed a dog, a 9 and some training. Poor lady and poor family. This video is what the liberals fear and hate the most. Show it far and wide.

  3. avatar Jim Bullock says:

    Something like the Simon-Erlich wager re: proposed gun policies would go a way toward countering arguments from tortured statistics and assumptions.

    In the Simon-Erlich wager they constructed a bet on how civilization would play out for a while, representing their conclusions that the world was going to run out of stuff and end, and no it isn’t, respectively. Very cleverly designed. Details here, it a tad – er – advocate-y of one POV:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon-Ehrlich_wager

    How do we propose a bet, vs. an independent proxy, that tracks with increase or decrease in “safety” which is so often proposed?

    1. avatar actionphysicalman says:

      The Simon-Erlich bet was very simple. Measuring safety is not.
      Also the Simon-Erlich bet result did not even effect Erlich’s books sales or his even opinion of his predictions, much less policy anywhere. Almost no one knows or cares about it.
      Who is “we”?

  4. avatar NYC2AZ says:

    Owning an object, (be it a car, knife, gun, private aircraft, or a samurai sword) makes it more likely that you will be hurt/killed with that object over someone that doesn’t own the aforementioned object. Even with that being the case, the Kellerman study is a bullshit study that was revised multiple times because of its BS. Yet, we still have to listen to its BS conclusions over 20 years later spouted by useful idiots that don’t understand statistics or research.

    1. avatar Juanito ''Johnnie'' Ibañez says:

      “Like dreams, statistics are a form of wish fulfillment.“
      —Jean Baudrillard

      “Statistics: the mathematical theory of ignorance.”
      —Morris Kline

      “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts – for support rather than for illumination.”
      —Andrew Lang

      “In ancient times they had no statistics so they had to fall back on lies.”
      —Stephen Leacock

      “There are two ways of lying. One, not telling the truth and the other, making up statistics.”
      —Josefina Vazquez Mota

      “Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.”
      —Mark Twain

      Well; you get the basic idea.

  5. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    So they even say there are millions of home invasions? We win by default. How do know when one gets violent? Yeah-I don’t either…

  6. avatar Stray Dogg says:

    Blacks commit 90% of the violent crimes in America. 1/3 of black males has a felony record. Black males between the ages of 18 to 49 who comprise just 4% of the population, commit 51.3% of the murders according to the FBI 2014 crime report just out.

    1. avatar sagebrushracer says:

      I looked at that report for giggles, and I don’t see where you get your stats. Table 43 has arrests by race, and the african americans are edging out whites only in murder, robbery and gambling.

      I did notices that vagrancy is up by 13.5%, so much for economic recovery.

  7. avatar Chip Bennett says:

    Dear The Trace: Amanda Blackburn disagrees with you. At least, she would be, if she hadn’t been raped, and she and her unborn child murdered, in a recent home-invasion burglary in Indianapolis:

    http://myfox8.com/2015/11/20/police-say-pastors-wife-killed-in-home-invasion-was-raped-by-killer/

    You people are despicable.

    1. avatar NYC2AZ says:

      She would have just made things worse if she had a gun…. or something.

      /progsplainin’ derp

  8. avatar Timmy! says:

    We haven’t heard from Bruce Krafft in a while. What’s up with that? I started reading this page daily because of his dissection of anti-gun arguments.

  9. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    The Trace “article” is titled, “Why I Want Crooks to Know That My House Is a Gun-Free Zone.”

    If any of my neighbors share his opinions, I’ll be glad to plant some signs in their yards.

  10. I had an interesting argument with this Devin Hughes at armedwithreason.com a while back. Apparently he honestly believes guns cause bad things to happen, much as rocks might cause broken windows. That is ultimately where such “reasoning” leads: the gun is a truly causal factor for bad stuff to happen. It’s fascinating that even when cornered with this fact such people cannot retreat from it and will engage in whatever mental and verbal antics are required to maintain their belief. It’s worth a look just to see how his sort of thinking works, scroll down a bit:

    http://www.armedwithreason.com/debunking-the-good-guy-with-a-gun-myth-guns-do-not-make-you-safer/#comment-19375

  11. avatar the ruester says:

    It occurs to me that this “safer without one” argument is the zombie lie that will not die here. It has been repeated so often that it is considered “common sense,” despite the fact that the suicide rate is virtually identical to that of 30 years ago, and of course homicides have been reduced by nearly half, while ownership has basically doubled in that time. Something must be done to destroy this meme.

    The news ready buzz phrase “a gun in the home is more likely to harm you or a loved one” hits all the right heart strings, invoking images of babies and puppies burning at the altar of gun rights, so ANY dissent to that point of view can be guiltlessly characterized literally as advocacy for pagan ritual sacrifice. Worse, those bearing the message become “wolves in sheeps clothing,” instantly othered to the point that an otherwise rational person would be compelled to shun and dismiss them outright as mere corporate shills (due to another big lie, that the gun industry has FU money like Exxon).

    Building a new frame, on that holds “a gun in the home is unlikely to result in a tragic accident” may not even be possible, at this point. Conceding that “hell yes, guns are dangerous, that’s why you need one” while pointing to violent criminals has been the best medicine for this, so far, but to reach the next level I’m afraid we’d need to push a concept equal in audaciousness to the Kleck study; that the majority of “gun violence” victims are, in fact, guilty criminals who brought it on themselves, and deserve no pity from law abiding citizens. A simple stat that could illuminate this; figure out how many gunshot survivors refuse to cooperate with police. Could even be done with a phone survey. Then we could endlessly repeat the flimsy assertion that “80% of gunshot victims refuse to cooperate with police…” shamelessly connecting phony dots out to the conclusion that they must have ALL been shot by law abiding citizens.

    It would be exactly as fair as what they’ve done to us for decades.

    1. “a gun in the home is more likely to harm you or a loved one” It’s a simple misinterpretation of data. I try to ‘splain it to them but, alas! ’tis futile. There is something called the “ecological fallacy” that explains the flaw in reasoning: “The ecological fallacy occurs where an analysis of group data is used to draw conclusions about an individual.” As in, car ownership is associated with increased risk of drunk driving (simply because it’s hard to drive drunk if you don’t have a car), and since you have a car, you must be a drunk driving risk. Same goes with being a “gun owner” and the risk of suicide and/or homicide by gun.

      Basically, suicide and/or homicide occurs in homes where people are suicidal and/or homicidal. Without those risk factors, having a gun does not put people at risk.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Basically, suicide and/or homicide occurs in homes where people are suicidal and/or homicidal. Without those risk factors, having a gun does not put people at risk.

        That is an outstanding statement … you were able to use half the words to say what I was trying to say below. And adding in the dimension of my statement below, we can take your outstanding statement to the next level:

        Suicide and/or homicide occurs in homes where people are suicidal and/or homicidal. Those risk factors mean the killer can easily kill a roommate or family member in their sleep with an ax … or themselves with a 100 m.p.h. crash into the concrete pillar of a highway overpass. Whether or not they have a firearm is irrelevant to the ultimate outcome.

        This is the simple refrain that we must repeat relentlessly — the statement to refute the assertion that a firearm in the home is more dangerous than not having one.

  12. avatar Another Robert says:

    So they start from the get-go with only the number of burglaries that result in homicides–not rapes, not beatings, not torture, just homicide. And not carjackings, not muggings, not street assaults, just burglaries. And arbitrarily label those the only “significant” ones. Rather like equating defensive gun uses with “justifiable homicides, when DGU’s cover numerous situations that don’t result in anyone’s death. Anyone that uses statistics gleaned from The Trace as authoritative has already irreparably damaged his credibility–something I try to point out wherever I see it.

    1. avatar Juanito ''Johnnie'' Ibañez says:

      “I can prove anything by statistics except the truth.”
      —George Canning

  13. avatar James says:

    Statistics can be useful when mining data and looking for clues and hints. Statistics are not the end-all/be-all.

    Statistically speaking, if I stand in a bucket of ice water and set my head on fire, on average, I should feel just fine.

  14. avatar Kendahl says:

    I get tired of claims that owning a firearm or even carrying one daily is inherently dangerous. TTAG should not buy into the myth that there is a risk to be balanced against the advantages of ownership. It’s entirely a matter of personal responsibility. If you follow the safety rules and stay sober so that you can follow them, firearms aren’t dangerous. It’s ridiculous not to distinguish between responsible owners versus drunks and the careless. That’s not done with automobiles. We don’t hear, “Driving is so dangerous that you are better off not owning an automobile.” Instead, we hear, “Stay sober and drive carefully.” The same applies to firearms.

  15. avatar Another Robert says:

    So, Mr. Hughes, put your money–and your other possessions, and your family’s safety–where your mouth is and put up a “gun-free zone” sign in your yard. Then post a picture on your FB page. Otherwise–you’re just another anti-gun liar.

  16. avatar CBI says:

    Thanks for the article. I think you hit the nail on the head about much of the anti’s arguments.
    I’m also trying to do the math on “with the [almost exactly] equal risk of a residential fire”, based upon the link, and can’t figure out what is meant. Could you please help a math-challenged physicist. 🙂 I’m obviously missing something.
    Thanks again.

    1. As in, it’s not about probabilities but about the stakes and, most important, responsibility to prevent fires and/or defend innocent life. And just as we do not need to put out a certain amount of fires to demonstrate we are safer with fire extinguishers, so do we not need to shoot a certain number of Bad Guys every year in order to justify our readiness to defend through force of arms. The rationale stands on its own.

      1. avatar CBI says:

        What you wrote is quite true, Odysseus, but my question concerned something else, namely a statistical risk claim. It is likely to be true, but I’d like to check it out.

  17. avatar JR_in_NC says:

    Lots to learn from that video.

    First, it was tough to watch.

    Second, he was beating her for more than one reason. He did not NEED to keep going back and repeatedly attacking her if all he wanted was to steal some stuff. He had her subdued and had complete control of the scene.

    Maybe he knew her and had something against her personally. Or, maybe she was a proxy for someone he knew. Or it was racial. Or…other possibilities.

    But, this does not look like mere “Instrumental Violence” (as most attackers use…using the violence to achieve a specific goal such as theft).

    Third, he spent a LOT of time in that house to have just stolen a few items of jewelry. It smacks of the theft being incidental to the attack, not the other way around.

    Fourth: She cooperated and still got the snot beat out of her. What the anti’s/Proggies don’t want you to know about “cooperating” is that in real violent crimes (street robbery, home invasions, etc), cooperating results in injury (or death) 50% of the time.

    There’s a statistic for you, Devin Hughes…look that one up. NOT fighting back has you at 50-50 odds of still getting hurt or killed. Now, as bonus points, look up the stats for those odds when the victim responds with ANY resistance at all (up to and including deadly force).

    Fifth: The reporting; the Statist attitude of “Good thing the video is in the hands of police now!” and no mention of how a woman home alone with two small children might actually protect herself and her family.

    Sixth: The video does not show how he got in. Did he force his way in, or did she let him in? There’s the implication that he “invaded,” but it was not clear (or I just missed it).

    Seventh: She was nothing more than lucky that he did not harm the child. What would she have done if he had? She was already beaten down and not responding in any meaningful way.

    They said she decided to “just take it” to protect her daughter. What? She did not have any choice but to take it…she had ZERO control of the situation at all…

    Eighth: Fists. Looked pretty brutal the beating he was giving her. Between fists and just “disparity of force,” he could EASILY have killed her. Didn’t need a gun.

    So, disarming the populace would have stopped this attack HOW, Mr. Hughes? Let’s say guns are banned for the sake of argument. This attack would not have been changed…at all. This woman would have still had the snot beat out of her.

    Etc…

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      JR_in_NC,

      There is a strange, bizarre, twisted psychology at play in many violent criminals’ minds. They “rationalize” their actions something along the lines of, “The victim invited the beat down with their meek attitude and therefore deserved what they got since they neither had the will nor the ability to effectively stop their attack.”

      It is a variation of the same mindset that says a woman wanted to have sex since she was wearing skimpy, sexy, flattering clothing and didn’t have any meaningful way to resist, therefore she “deserved” it.

      Violent criminals are depraved. Their minds do not work like ours. Their motivations are different. In simple terms they are animals living out “survival of the fittest”.

      1. avatar JR_in_NC says:

        From what I understand from comments made by William Aprill, who has studied violence criminals for a long time, most criminal violence is “Instrumental Violence.” It serves a specific goal…get the purse, the wallet, cover up the fraud, etc.

        The exceptions, the ones that enjoy the violence for its own sake, are the exception, but are extremely dangerous.

        This guy sure seemed like the latter.

    2. avatar peirsonb says:

      Re #6: It’s been a LONG time, but IIRC the original video showed her answering the door and him forcing his way past her.

  18. avatar Jimmyjames says:

    ” all Americans have the (god given) right to protect themselves against (edit) home invaders (period).”

    “Gun owners know that a gun in the home presents risks (to home invaders).”

    My edits and additions in parenthesis.

  19. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    … the evidence still overwhelmingly demonstrates that a firearm in the home — especially a handgun — dramatically increases the risk of homicide, suicide, or fatal accident.

    Does a firearm — the object — actually increase the risk of homicide or suicide? Or, do people who kill themselves or someone else coincidentally tend to have firearms?

    Consider a roommate or family member who is determined to kill themselves or another person in their home. How does removing firearms from the home stop them from driving their car into a massive concrete pillar of a highway overpass at 100 mph for a certain suicide? How does removing firearms from the home stop them from using an ax to kill a family member in their sleep?

    The only legitimate trade-off of risks that I can see are negligent discharges of a firearm in a home. Obviously, a home with no firearms has ZERO probability of a negligent discharge. On the other hand, someone negligently injured or killed roughly 2,000 people in their homes last year. Contrast that risk with over 1.6 million home invasions last year according to Hughes. Contrast that risk with over 1.5 million violent crimes last year … many of which happened away from home.

    A firearm represents ZERO risk of harm due to a roommate or family member using a firearm for suicide or murder because alternate means are just as effective, easier, and less expensive. And we can manage the risk of a firearm causing negligent injuries in the home if we simply keep them inaccessible to children and religiously follow the four safety rules. Given those facts, I will gladly accept that near zero risk to be able to stop a violent scumbag from harming my family or myself, whether at home or away from home, as happens more than a million times each year.

  20. avatar pg2 says:

    “The right to keep and bear arms is a natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right. As such, it’s no more subject to the democratic process than the right not to be a slave. If 99 out of 100 American gun owners wanted to ban firearms, the remaining one percenters [sic] would still have a right to keep and bear arms. Even if owning a gun put them, their family or their neighbors at risk.”

    Very well said. Try this on for size….. ‘The right to choose medical procedures is a natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right. As such, it’s no more subject to the democratic process than the right not to be a slave. If 99 out of 100 Americans wanted to mandate vaccines(or any other medical procedure), the remaining one percenters [sic] would still have a right to refuse said medical procedures. Even if rejecting these procedures allegedly put their family or their neighbors at risk.’

    1. avatar peirsonb says:

      I think you’d have a bit of time arguing the “Constitutionally protected” bit of that…

      1. avatar Rambeast says:

        I think you would have an even harder time arguing that the Constitution allows for the reverse.

      2. avatar pg2 says:

        I think you’re unclear on what the constitution is.

  21. avatar Alan Brooks says:

    “A man’s natural rights are his own, against the whole world; and any infringement of them is equally a crime, whether committed by one man, or by millions; whether committed by one man, calling himself a robber, (or by any other name indicating his true character,) or by millions, calling themselves a government.” – Lysander Spooner

  22. avatar Bob201 says:

    Everyone seems shocked at the video, but that’s how those kinds of things go — brutally violent and up close. If it is all about thievery, he would have run at first sight of seeing someone in the house. This was pure murderous hate with probably a drug chaser. Any one of those blows could have easily killed the mother. Lucky is an understatement. I want to know where was their home defense gun, and if they do not have one, I want to ask her husband why. I want to ask what training they had, and if they have never received training, I want to ask her husband why. If this couple ever took an anti-2nd amendment stance, I want to rub it in their face. Sorry, I am so sick of these things happening, and people acting like they don’t. Many people will get a fire extinguisher and smoke detector, but they will not provide for their own defense. Then when they are confronted with reality, they boast about how cruel the world is when they could have done something to prevent it and protect themselves.

  23. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

    NJ, a gun owner’s paradise…. oh wait, I think I got that wrong.

  24. avatar LordGopu says:

    Logically, it makes no sense to claim that guns aren’t better than other things for self defense. Guns became the dominate weapon type specifically because that’s what they do. Crossbows and then later firearms replaced earlier weapons systems that required either lots of training or lots of skill or both.

    You can’t make claims that average people can’t figure out guns but criminals can. It doesn’t make sense. I’m sure most criminals have never fired their guns either. Guns just serve to equalize a bad situation.

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