1600 Defensive Gun Uses Per Year? Incendiary Image of the Day

(courtesy The Trace)

We’ve been noticing a concerted effort by proponents of civilian disarmament to entirely discredit the idea of defensive gun use. And for good reason. Most Americans support Second Amendment protections against government infringements on the right to keep and bear arms primarily because they cherish their natural right to self-defense. Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun agitpropagandists have joined the campaign targeting the single greatest impediment to gun control with their article Gun-Rights Advocates Claim Owning a Gun Makes a Woman Safer. The Research Says They’re Wrong. Here’s their opening salvo . . .

. . . the available evidence does not support the conclusion that guns offer women increased protection. Myriad studies show that the NRA and its allies grossly misrepresent the actual dangers women face. It is people they know, not strangers, who pose the greatest threat.

This is what’s called a straw man argument. Truth be told, the NRA and its allies don’t divide threats against women between “people they know” and “people they don’t know.” They simply insist that a gun is the best tool a woman can use for self-defense against anyone, be they an abusive spouse, a burglar or a random rapist. And that anything that impedes the exercise of this right is acting against women’s (and men’s) self-interest.

What’s wrong with that logic?

Nothing. Especially when you consider that Americans’ constitutionally protected gun rights are not subject to arguments about social utility (i.e., the overall effectiveness of armed self-defense). The Trace and its allies ignore this fact, and do everything in their power to undermine the facts surrounding actual defensive gun uses. Like this . . .

There is also strong, data-based evidence that shows owning a gun, rather than making women safer, actually puts them at significantly greater risk of violent injury and death.

In some places and in some instances, women have, in fact, used guns to successfully defend themselves. But the case that gun rights advocates make when pitching guns as essential to women’s personal and family security goes beyond the anecdotal, leaning heavily on an oft-cited 1995 study by the Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck — a study built on faulty research.

In his findings, Kleck estimated that women use guns to defend themselves 1.2 million times per year, and that 200,000 such defensive gun uses stopped sexual assaults. Those estimates have proved to be wildly inflated. Successful defensive gun use is, in fact, extremely rare among all people: There are fewer than 1,600 verified instances in the U.S. each year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. By comparison, annually, 118,000 people are injured, killed, or commit suicide with a gun.

Harvard University anti-gun rights campaigner David Hemenway provided the lowest credible estimate of defensive gun use (DGU) frequency. His study pegged the number at 55k to 85k DGU’s per year. In 2013, the virulently anti-gun Violence Policy Center compiled five years of FBI statistics (2007-2011) to estimate that defensive gun uses occur on average of 67,740 times per year.

The Trace’s money shot — the Gun Violence Archive‘s assertion that there only 1600 verified instances of defensive gun uses per year — doesn’t get a link. Huh. Methodology?

The Gun Violence Archive is an online archive of gun violence incidents collected from over 1,500 media, law enforcement, government and commercial sources daily in an effort to provide near-real time data about the results of gun violence.

Wait! The GVA researches incidents of “gun violence” not defensive gun uses. So where’d they come up with this 1600 DGU’s per year figure?  The Trace ain’t linking and Gun Violence Archive’s website ain’t got nothing. And so The Trace trots out The Big Lie and another straw man.

The evidence is clear: Women simply aren’t defending themselves with guns at a significant rate.

It’s possible that gun activists could use that fact as reason for getting more firearms into the hands and homes of more women. But here their argument hits its critical flaw: Every credible scientific study of women and guns in the last two decades strongly indicates that a firearm in a woman’s home is far more likely to be used against her or her family than to defend against an outside attacker. Increasing gun ownership by women would only heighten that risk.

I think the word “credible” means what The Trace wants it to mean. Meanwhile, authors Evan DePhillippis and Devin Hughes rely on misdirection to make their case against women owning guns.

The fact that more women are killed in their own home by a firearms-wielding abusive spouse or partner than an “outside” attacker with a gun doesn’t mean a gun in the home is the key variable. The abusive spouse or partner is the important consideration.

Notice as well that The Trace propagandists are restricting their statistical analysis to guns used in the home. Nothing is said about defensive gun uses outside the home.

The rest of their diatribe deals with domestic abuse. I won’t trouble you with Mr. DePhillipis’ and Hughe’s defective logic in that regard. Suffice it to say, The Trace should be ashamed of themselves for trying to diminish the importance of defensive gun uses. Whatever happened to their argument “if it saves one life”?


  1. avatar Jomo says:

    Another day, another ‘study’ that espouses that ‘it wasn’t a gun use unless you shot him’. Meanwhile, these same people will gleefully count as ‘gun violence’ even a brandishing charge. Sad and pathetic.

    1. avatar Nigil Quid says:

      It’s not just that they don’t consider a defensive gun use unless you shoot, it’s that they’re usually counted justified homicide. Meaning the perp has to die. So in their eyes, the only legitimate use of a gun defensively is: in the home, when you shoot and kill the person, and it is later determined to be justified.
      And it’s true there are not all that many of those. Some happen outside the home. Many justified shootings result in non-fatal injuries. Many more involve no injuries, or no one is taken into custody. It’s as meaningless a number to point to as is “gun violence”, as if being stabbed to death were somehow better than being shot to death.

  2. avatar Joseph says:

    All these arguments regarding statistics about guns being good or bad for the home/protection/society are, as you know, meaningless. The core reason for the leftists wanting civilian disarmament has nothing to do with the efficacy of gun ownership, safety, crime, or any of their other arguments, It’s simply that disarming the people makes them easier to control. That is all. All the rest is poppycock.

  3. avatar Shandower says:

    Well, but if guns save just one life, isn’t it all worth it? Isn’t that the argument they’re always making?

    1. avatar peirsonb says:

      They really need to say what they mean. Those 1600 lives don’t matter, because guns.

  4. avatar Phil Wilson says:

    I believe you mentioned “shame” in connection to a leftist. Leftists have no shame.

  5. avatar tdiinva (Now in Wisconsin) says:

    All the studies that purport to show that a gun in the home omit the fact that gun related domestic violence is not uniformity distributed among gun posessing households. I use gun possessing because most domestic violence involving firearms happens in households that have at least one prohibited person. In fact, all the studies that show a gun in the house puts people at risk omit the fact that most criminal gun uses in the home comes from a gun introduced by an outside party during the comission of a felony against a resident engaged in criminal activity. It’s not living with a gun that puts you at risk, it’s living with a felon.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      “It’s not living with a gun that puts you at risk, it’s living with a felon.”

      That there is worthy of a “Quote of the Day” all by itself.

  6. avatar Chris Morton says:

    Apparently, since my godsister’s abusive boyfriend STABBED her with a knife, she’s not actually dead…

  7. avatar pod says:

    They can’t wrap their heads around the fact that sometimes their precious data isn’t entirely accurate, and also that in the case of DGUs, if a shot isn’t fired, most people aren’t likely to phone it in, especially in gun-adverse jurisdictions.

    Imagine if you lived in Chicago, or NYC, and had a rare-as-hen’s-teeth carry permit – you get involved in a confrontation (robbery attempt or whatever) outside of your premises, and you draw, the guy bolts. Are you gonna call the cops, who are likely to paint you as the bad guy (despite your permit)? No way. You’re gonna go home.

    1. CC is not rare in Chicago-and it’s shall issue. But I get your point.

  8. avatar Steve says:

    “If it saves just 1,600 lives, isn’t it worth it?”

    1. avatar Chris from IA says:

      Came here to say precisely this. Glad someone else thinks the same way.

    2. avatar Ing says:

      No, it has to save one. Just one. No more, no less. You people obviously haven’t been paying attention.

  9. avatar RugerLady says:

    I’ve personally defended myself with my gun twice.

    Personal experience has led me to strongly support my own 2A rights and to encourage other women to conceal carry.

  10. avatar wright says:

    Sounds like a bunch of sexists.

  11. avatar Chip in Florida says:

    So there are not quite 1600 DGU’s a year? And how many shot a year? And you want to make it harder to get/own guns? So you want MORE people shot and LESS people defended?

    And the antigunners try and say we are the ones with mental problems.

  12. avatar Bob says:

    Listening to the Trace’s opinion on guns is like listening to the KKK’s opinion on freed black people. Danger: Extremely Negative Bias Ahead.

    The only number of defensive guns uses that matter are the one YOU experience. Likelyhoods and statistics don’t mean shit when it’s you or your family

    1. avatar SF in VA says:

      ^ This x 1000

  13. avatar Jim Bullock says:

    Thry’re going after defensive gun use (esp by women) because it’s in the way of the story that guns are fetish-objects for Rambo wanna-be’s n OFWG bitter clingers that lets them ban guns, for the children! There’s no legit use, n we don’t care about those (non-)people anyway, so ban away.

    Women defending themselves from assault means there is a trade-off to banning gunsf, n the victims count. The last thing the anti’s want is an actual utility analysys.

    Let the picture change to legit defense by legit people, and you sneak in the notion that maybe people have the right to be left un-assaulted, n maybe daddy-Bloomie can’t (or won’t) always provide that. From there it’s a short trip to “Some animals are more equal than others.” and Bloomie is protected by guns, but no guns for you! (Missie.)

    Myself, I think we can all, each, individually, make our own decisions about whether having a gun makes us safer or not. The guys who wrote that article, and the well-guarded guy who funded it apparently think women-folk aren’t up to that thinking, or maybe are just expendable.

    Also, their statistics n methods suck, but, when you are marshalling fake support for the conclusion you started out with… it’s called propaganda.

  14. avatar Illinois_Minion says:

    Sounds like a case of “1600 instances of ‘saving just one life’ ” to me.

    Let start using their words against them.

    P.S. Steve (above) beat me to it.

  15. avatar Accur81 says:

    If it’s a crime to commit suicide, why can’t we count suicide as a DGU? See, I can play with numbers, too.

    Sometimes I start a contentious argument this way: everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, all opinions are not created equal. Intelligent opinions are based upon facts. While you are entitled to your own opinion, you are not entitled to your own facts. Facts are independent and verifiable. Look them up and show them when you get them. “I heard somewhere,” “I read online somewhere,” and the like do not constitute facts.

    Good statistics use all relevant facts in a subset, and include relevant outliers. Dirty statistics select a tiny portion within a relevant set of facts and then purport to make a grandiose finding.

    Further, whenever gun violence is mentioned, the fact that government is the most effective mass murderer in human history must be considered. Armed civilians constitute the best defense against government violence.

  16. avatar Jeremy says:

    Since statically 40% of these shooting are suicides you can automatically deduct 47,200. Now we have 70,800 minus 1,600, equals 69,200. That’s a lot of shootings but not quite the slaughter rate of their stats.

  17. avatar Marc Hammond says:

    The 1600 DGU is quite the red-herring.

    It’s no stretch to imagine tens of thousands of unwanted encounters that go unreported annually because a gun is just drawn, or just shown, or just hinted in order to stop the encounter. And THAT, too, is DGU.

    In my opinion, it is DGU of the most successful kind? Why? Because no one gets ruined, especially the innocent in the encounter.

    Gun-owners inclined to restraint are the weak-point (“shall not be infringed” aside) in anti-gun propaganda and should be challenged at every turn.

    1. avatar Marc Hammond says:

      Meant to say the weak-point should be challenged…

  18. avatar CLarson says:

    How morally bankrupt do you have be to sweep real prevented rapes, assaults, and murders under the rug for a paycheck at the Trace? When these people knowingly falsify a low number of DGUs do they think about the real life victims they are silencing? The NRA does not hide from the fact that gun accidents happen which is why gun safety and training is such a huge priority for them. They deal with it head on like moral and responsible adults. Stop being evil, The Trace.

  19. avatar ted says:

    Anti-gunner logic: Seat belts are only useful if you are in a crash and fire extinguishers are only important if you have a fire.

    Logic really is lost on these morons.

  20. avatar Aerindel says:

    2A has nothing to do with self defense, its about resisting tyranny. Self defense is just a nice bonus but irrelevant to the argument for either side.

    1. avatar Marc Hammond says:

      Oh, good. A nihilist.

      1. avatar Aerindel says:

        I think the word you are looking for is ‘purest’ A nihilist doesn’t believe in anything, I am simply stating what the documented purpose of 2A is.

    2. avatar Accur81 says:

      The resistance of tyranny is self defense. Governments and the agents thereof are the most dangerous mass murderers in human history.

  21. avatar JasonM says:

    I think the word “credible” means what The Trace wants it to mean.
    I suspect you mean you don’t think ….
    TTAG really needs to get a proofreader; there are word omissions like this in the majority of articles. Although it’s not always quite as important of a word.

  22. avatar Kevin says:

    There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”
    — Mark Twain

    Although, I think we can all agree that there is a fourth type of lie – a Clinton Lie.

    1. Liars, Damned Liars, and Politicians

  23. avatar Mark N. says:

    The 1600 number of “verifiable” defensive gun uses almost certainly pertains to DGUs where the attacker ended up dead, and it was later concluded that the killing was a justified homicide. Thus excluded are all shootings where the attacker was merely wounded, shootings where no one was injured, and defensive gun displays where no shots were fired. Since even Bloomberg’s paid public health minions conclude that the number is far higher than 1600, and the source is not a researcher, the article is a complete fabrication of lies built upon lies.

  24. avatar Jeremy says:

    A Clinton lie has several levels. I’m going to need you to define “sexual relations.” Clinton lies also include the rule of crossed fingers, if my fingers are crossed, all is null and void.

  25. avatar William Ashbless says:

    Defilipis and Hughes have their own blog (a rmedwithreasoon) and they regularly troll their comments posing as guests to support their slanted research and childishly attack and insult those who question their methods. Somebody’s paying those little idiots. But, who?

  26. See now?

    Firearms have been used more in murders in suicides than stopping as criminal attack based on relevant evidence from the boston journal of internal medicine that proves your 50X more likely to murder a love one or commit suicide with a firearm than stop a crime.

    “DGUs”…A myth perpetrated by the NRA and various other “gun rights” groups is nothing but a heavily debunked fairy tale.

    Meanwhile in the gun free freedom loving civilized nations of Europe, Australia and Japan. No one has died from guns and no mass shootings reported. I still don’t see these countries turning into dictatorships.

    I still don’t see the safe civilized world turning into a hiter-land dictatorship that the “gun reich” supporters believe will happen.

    Meanwhile “Gun rights” groups and the NRA-controlled freedom-oppressive tyranny usa continued to have a mass shooting everyday since the laws were relaxed and the murders and suicide by guns continue to rise as the laws become relaxed.

    1. avatar Yellow Devil says:


      Willy, I missed ya.

    2. avatar gs650g says:

      Probably best if you stay disarmed so criminals get paid.

    3. avatar ACP_arms says:

      “…Meanwhile in the gun free freedom loving civilized nations of Europe, Australia and Japan. No one has died from guns and no mass shootings reported…”

      Try again…

      Pairs, France (which is in Europe) Jan 7th 2015 Charlie Hebdo. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Hebdo_shooting

      “…Meanwhile “Gun rights” groups and the NRA-controlled freedom-oppressive tyranny usa continued to have a mass shooting everyday since the laws were relaxed and the murders and suicide by guns continue to rise as the laws become relaxed…”

      Please define mass shooting.
      Also, you don’t need a gun to commit suicide, just ask Japan.

    4. Oh … you’re paraphrasing the often-debunked “Kellerman Study” … and exaggerating the findings which were even proven to be extravagant there!

      If you’re going to quote studies, PLEASE have the courtesy to quote those which weren’t based on lies.

    5. avatar Raoul Duke says:

      Europe and Australia have lots of mass shootings. They are just underreported by a biased, left-wing media because it goes against their narrative.

      Japan? Yes, a racist, misogynist, xenophobic, mono-culture is what we should ascribe to /sarc!! You are right they don’t have mass shootings that is because they have mass suicides instead!! Aokigahara ring a bell?? Or how about just stepping out in front of trains on busy commuter days?

      So much fail.

  27. Those little hucksters at charmed-by-unreason are pretty silly. Invariably they treat the gun as a cause, which is the only way you can explain such “reasoning.” I had an interesting argument with one of them where he tries to defend this belief. He seems to really believe what he’s saying, quite a remarkable look into how the anti-gun thinking works, as the charmed hucksters are certainly not alone. The whole meme here at the top makes it look like guns aren’t worth the cost in lives, which would be true if guns were some sort of pathogen, which is just what they would have everyone believe if they could. It won’t work of course, and it infuriates these folks to be called out on it, as you can tell. From the comments below the article.


  28. avatar LarryinTX says:

    “It is people they know, not strangers, who pose the greatest threat.”

    Do these people think guns only work against strangers?

    1. avatar Accur81 says:

      The “reasoning” is that a gun owner could not ever possibly defend against an acquaintance or a dishonest friend. Gun owners, whether man or woman, would instantly let their guard down in the presence of familiar faces and have their weapons used against them. Such thoughts aren’t based upon reality or statistics, but that’s the case with all of the anti-gunner arguments.

  29. avatar Dan says:

    President Obama: “If there’s even one thing we can do, if there’s just one life we can save—we’ve got an obligation to try.” #NowIsTheTime


  30. avatar TyrannyOfEvilMen says:

    The political left has set the standard here and they did so in such a public way that it can never be rescinded:

    “If it saves just one life…”

    Game over.

  31. avatar Big Boy says:

    The anti gun folks who “play” at statistics only count DEAD bodies. Most successful DGUs involve no discharge of a cartridge, mere defensive display is sufficient to send the perp running away.

  32. avatar gs650g says:

    Which 1600 victims would the trace prefer to victimize?

  33. avatar Accur81 says:

    I’ve pointed a few guns, Tasers, pepper spray, and bean bag shotguns at a lot of different people in the course of a couple hundred felony stops since 2001. I’ve very rarely had to pull the trigger. Actually I’d say I’ve used force on about 5% of felony stops and pulled a trigger of any sort about 1%.

    Anyone who believes there are only 1,600 DGU’s per year is deluded.

  34. It’s actually NOT against the law to commit suicide.
    However, “Attempted Suicide” IS against the law.

    Well … if suicide were illegal, it would be difficult to prosecute, wouldn’t it?

  35. avatar Jay Tea says:

    47.6%of all a statistics are made up! Figures never lie, but liars always figure!!

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