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Who could possibly have predicted that when more burglars are shot in the act, burglary rates go down? Somehow, though, that natural response seems to confound media sophisticates. Take, for example, this report of a recent routine defensive gun use story from “Terrell Ruben, 42, became the third person shot and killed in an attempted burglary in Richmond this year. A Richmond homeowner shot Ruben in the chest after he discovered Ruben and another man attempting to steal property from his backyard last Saturday.” . . .

Another home invader pushing up daisies. Whatever, right? But check out this astute observation by the article’s author, Martin Totland:

Despite the unusually high number people shot in burglary attempts, residential burglaries have gone down 28 percent compared to last year in the period between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30.

To most rational people, this is a textbook case of cause-and-effect at play. If you shoot more burglars, you tend to get fewer burglaries and home invasions. Unless you’re a card-carrying member of the media, it seems.

Totland highlighting what he apparently sees as a puzzling contradiction in a classic example of “The Butterfield Effect.” Here’s Michael Graham’s definition:

It’s what happens when someone on the Left makes a statement that is laughably ludicrous on its face, yet it reveals what the speaker truly believes — no matter how dumb.

“The Butterfield Effect” is named in honor of ace New York Times crime reporter Fox Butterfield, the intrepid analyst responsible for such brilliantly headlined stories as “More Inmates, Despite Drop In Crime,” and “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction,” not to mention the poetic 1997 header, “Crime Keeps on Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling.”

Take this slack-jawed lede from a 2004 Butterfield piece:

The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday.

How…is…that…possible? Surely it’s a prima facie case of a justice system run amok. Or racism. Or both.

Totland makes sure to inform his readers that guns really aren’t the answer to, well, any problem, home invasions included.

You should always call the police in the event of a burglary. Not every burglary happens the same way, but giving the intruder incentive to flee may work, according to police.

Somehow the deterrent effect of armed self defense just doesn’t manage to penetrate the modern progressive reportorial mind. But watching them wrestle with the facts is still wonderfully instructive.

[h/t Dean Weingarten]


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  1. Looking down the barrel of a gun seems like good incentive to flee. Much quicker than waiting 5 minuted for the cops to show up too.

  2. i really like how the even point out that even the police say it “may” help in them just leaving if you call the police. so they are more comfortable putting our safety in a grey area with “he MAY just leave if you call the police” rather than shooting them and KNOWING you are safe.

    • “… giving the intruder incentive to flee may work… ”

      Firing a few shots at the intruder would usually give him “incentive to flee”, but this particular burglar was apparently a prime candidate for the Darwin Award.

    • I think his logic might have been the following:
      (False) Assumption: The rate of defensive shootings of burglars is consistent year to year.
      Fact: Burglary rates are down.
      Conclusion: Defensive shootings of burglars should be down.

      But as RF regularly posts: gun sales are way up. The number of people buying guns is way up. So the rate of defensive shootings should be up.

  3. 29 yrs. ago, the sight of my pistol persuaded a burglar to flee. He didn’t realize it was a Beeman P1 air pistol. It was the closest thing I could grab. It wasn’t even loaded, but my anger and resolve helped convince the douche-bag to leave. By the way, I home carry now.

    • So do I. The only difference is that if my pistol is not in my holster, I don’t have a round chambered, at least not while my college kids are home. But if holstered, round is chambered and full 17 round mag.

      • Your “college kids?” They should each have a holster and gun of their own. Long ago.

        My 12 year old had his own .22 rifle, and was absolutely reliable to use it safely. Without more than general supervision.

        • My 7 year old has her own .22LR rifle – though she still can only use it under my supervision.

          If my girls aren’t carrying of their own volition by the time they’re in college, I’ll consider that a failure on my part.

  4. Huh, I never made the connection 🙂 Now more states need to charge the accomplice of the robbery with murder charges for being involved and watch the rate bottom out.

    • … The hilarious part is that there is a precedent for it. It’s felony murder. Death in the course of a felony. In most jurisdictions, it’s billed as murder in the second degree.

  5. You certainly should call the police, butt only because it is useful to have a record of both crimes and attempted crimes. It can also help to convict a criminal later if he is identified and wanted for previous crimes.
    That much is true. But I’ll be calling while calmly racking the slide on my bedside Glock 20, and talking to the dispatcher while telling the would-be intruder into my castle that I plan to ventilate him if he doesn’t flee. Not necessarily in words; Buffalo Bore 200gr JHP in 10mm Auto tends to convey a lot of things to the average intruder in a hurry.

  6. In my area the local truck stop was robbed 6 times in the first 5 months it was open. Following the sixth robbery, the owners hired clerks and personnel who agreed to take gun safety and proficiency courses and regularly refresh their training for wearing a weapon openly. No more robberies since in the last 5 years.

    Neighborhood robberies were common. Many retired and elderly neighbors. We spoke with our sheriff and his deputies and arranged a meeting of all residents at our home in which the sheriff announced training sessions free of charge. At least one member of each home took the course. We started a Neighborhood Watch, installed security lights, trimmed overgrown shrubs and other foliage, started patrols, and the crime rate in the neighborhood went to 0. We know we must remain vigilant, neighbor looking out for neighbor, but an armed and vigilant neighborhood cuts down on crime. Which burglars and home invaders want to die?

  7. The difference between robbery and burglary: burglary happens when you are AWAY from home; robbery happens when you are AT home.

    • If I recall correctly, Burglary is committing a felony after unlawfully entering your house. Some states apply this to business property as well. Robbery is using threat of violence to steal property. But obviously, some states have slightly different definitions for these crimes.

      • Bob, I believe you are correct for robbery and almost correct, at least for the states I have experience. Toggle12 is incorrect; they are two different crimes that can happen separately or occur at the same time and not ‘connected’ in any way.

        Burglary is the unlawful entry itself with intent to commit “a crime” (does not have to be a felony). See South Carolina Title 16 for the definition’s wording, for example.

        It is, therefore, entirely possible to commit both a burglary (property crime) and robbery (crime against person) at the same time, or possible also commit a burglary on an occupied building without committing robbery.

        It is entirely possible to commit burglary without actually committing any other crime (at least in SC) if it can be shown you unlawfully entered with intent to do so.

      • Just so you understand my background, I entered law enforcement in my state (CO) in 2003 and am now in private enterprise. I was a reserve until last month (too busy with the company these days). In the CRS for my state, it is as follows:

        Theft (18-4-401): A person commits theft when he knowingly obtains or exercises control over anything of value of another without authorization, or by threat or deception, and:
        (a) Intends to deprive the other person permanently of the use or benefit of the thing of value (several more sub-points, but this is the primary one) . . .

        Burglary (18-4-203 [2nd degree]): A person commits second degree burglary, if the person knowingly breaks an entrance into, enters unlawfully in, or remains unlawfully after a lawful or unlawful entry in a building or occupied structure with et intent to commit a crime against another person or property.

        It is important to note with burglary that a person could be invited in, asked to leave, refuses to do so, and then commits a crime in the building or residence. Our 1st degree burglary (-202) is basically the same but involves a deadly weapon. If a person steals a firearm during a burglary, they are considered armed and it now becomes a 1st degree burglary. We also have a 3rd degree burglary statute (-204) that involves safes, cash registers, coin boxes, etc.

        Robbery (18-4-301): A person who knowingly takes anything of value from the person or presence of another by the use of force, threats, or intimidation commits robbery.

        Aggravated robbery (18-4-302) is basically the same but involves a deadly weapon (whether real or fashioned or threatened).

        Theft example: A person is walking through the store (where they are lawfully allowed to be) and conceals an object with the intent to permanently deprive (shoplifting).

        Burglary example: A person unlawfully enters an unoccupied residence through an unlocked back door. They deface a television set worth $300 (Criminal Mischief Misdemeanor).

        Robbery example: A woman is walking down a street and a male runs up behind her, pushes her down, grabs her purse, and continues on the way.

        Hope this helps clarify this!

  8. My thought seems really juvenile, but here it is. Letting a criminal run away is what gave Peter Parker/SpiderMan his guilt complex. He let a criminal go cause it wasn’t his problem, but the same criminal kills his uncle. Imagine the guilt you would feel if you could have stopped a criminal, but didn’t, who later went on to kill a loved one, or anyone really.

    • I’m not sure that’s juvenile. I’d bet that if you kill a burglar in January, there will be between 10 and 20 fewer burglaries during the full year than there would have been otherwise. Anyone who thinks their very own burglar was going to turn his life around, just needed the money to pay his tuition for his last semester in Med school, is dreaming. The guy will be stealing from someone else, possibly from you again, within a week or two.

  9. How many times has someone said ” I noticed someone following us late one night. I turned and reach for my strong side hip and the person ran away.”
    I’ve seen a variation of that many times. So one need not even shoot to stop someone with bad intent. Most criminals have at least enough brain cells to know what the gesture means.

      • “Don’t bet your ass.”

        Nothing is 100%. Prepare for the worst, and all that. I agree.

        However, those that study the dynamics of violent attacks (such as William Aprill) have noticed this thing they call “thin slicing,” which, in a nutshell (as Aprill describes it) is “decision making in an information impoverished environment.”

        The upshot is the bad guy has to make a very fast decision based on very little input whether or not to ‘attack.’ His default position is “don’t attack” because there is no down side to NOT attacking.

        In other words, he has to see, very quickly, a set of conditions that shifts his mental momentum from “don’t attack” to “go ahead and attack.” Having a person appear ready to fight back does NOT shift that momentum.

        Now, one of the big caveats here (and one of the many reasons nothing is 100%) is that this applies more definitively to older, more experienced criminals and less so to younger ones that have not learned how to be “good” criminals yet. You hear about criminals being dumb or they’d never get caught, and this is similar.

        I’d never stake my life (or the lives of my family) on any one stratagem or “trick,” but it is absolutely fair to say (based on available data from Lott and many, many others) that most DGU’s don’t involve shooting the weapon at all. Lott estimates less than 1% of DGU’s involve weapon caused injury.

        No matter what strategical or tactical approaches one takes, the first rule is and always remains “Have a gun.” Tom Givens, in a 2013 interview, outlined that of 62 of his students that had been in gunfights, the only two that died were the two that chose not to carry that day. Of the remaining 60, all 60 “won” their fights and only 3 were even injured.

        • I mostly agree. In fact the studies that claim gun owners are more likely to shoot themselves don’t count the over 99% of defensive gun uses by civilians and cops that don’t involve firing, (they also don’t control for the fact that most, the great majority, of getting shot in homes are in the homes of felons and gang members and that armed hoes of non criminals are in fact safer than unarmed homes)

          but I would add three points:

          1. The vast majority of violent crime is repeat crime. Taking a violent criminal out of circulation has a net positive affect.
          2. If the criminal knows they are in a low gun rights, epically may carry regime, they are going to call that bluff. That gesture is going to do you no good in Wash, DC, NYC, or if control advocates have there way, anywhere.
          3. People should not be unprepared to shoot. That can in some situations be more dangerous.

        • “2. If the criminal knows they are in a low gun rights, epically may carry regime, they are going to call that bluff. That gesture is going to do you no good in Wash, DC, NYC, or if control advocates have there way, anywhere.”

          Absolutely! That’s why it should not be a “bluff.” It’s only one possible step in one possible de-escalation sequence.

          Again, First Rule: HAVE A GUN. Rule 1b: Be willing to use it if necessary.

        • “3. People should not be unprepared to shoot. That can in some situations be more dangerous.” This relates to the fact that some gun owners will hesitate in a life or death situation and have their gun taken from them, in which case they never should have been carrying a gun. When you carry a gun every day the decision to fire it at a lethal threat better have already been made before being mugged or a hardened criminal will take your gun like candy from a baby, and you are probably going to get pistol whipped repeatedly. As a citizen responsible for their own safety just having a defensive tool is an important step but not the magic cure all from gun violence. Situational awareness allows you to see the threat coming and in concert with the muscle memory from repeated firearms practice a person has a decent chance. The mental aftermath affects all people differently, but be thankful you are alive. The criminal lethal threat is going to be in control in a bum rush scenario and remember your fist will break their nose and allow you to draw so don’t get fixated on the gun as your only defense.

  10. “… but giving the intruder incentive to flee go and attack someone else may work, according to police.” — corrected

    I really, REALLY, REALLY don’t want to see harm come to anyone. Unfortunately, if you allow a violent attacker to leave, they are simply going to harm someone else. How are we doing right for our families and community when we could stop a violent attacker but instead let them go to harm someone else?

    • If you scare a robber off with a gun, only that one criminal learns from the experience and decides to change his ways, maybe. Probably not.

      If you shoot a robber dead in your home, it could convince a dozen or more others to reconsider their career choices, or at least make damn sure nobody is home first.

    • Judge, jury, and executioner all in one, eh?

      I wonder how many people here who are so willing to deal out death go to a church on Sunday that recommends turning the other cheek.

      • Yup! If I am home and you break in there WILL be some shooting. If you are too stupid or lazy to work and think you can take what you want from me, I will shoot you. Yes I will sleep well. The person who breaks into my house has made that decision, not me.

      • “I am my brothers keeper”That means you don’t harm one without a lot more coming after you, which used to be an American value.
        If Simon Peter would have had an Ak-47 the hypocrites would have been taught their lesson and changed their ways, instead they are able to prosper in government jobs. I am to be loyal to benevolent men not hypocritical charlatans. As a Christian I may not harm an innocent person, and my faith says I can’t deliberately encounter evil men but when they cross my path I just can’t get paid for it.
        I’ll turn my cheek to both sides and allow a person to strike me, which is mainly just to establish the threshold for lethal force, since there are consequences to actions, unless you are black or liberal.
        Quit trying to play the 50/50 Christian card. Yes some Christians have bought into the nonviolence preached by Jesus and have conveniently forget his rage towards those who tried to kill his people. The cowards who are blaming their faith for their inaction are the ones who have allowed God to be replaced with greed.
        If an evil man were harm someone that is under my protection the old testament would become a reality for them and theirs.
        I will be carried by six of my peers instead of being judged by a jury consisting of not my peers.

        • I’m not talking about people who will defend themselves and their family from someone looking to harm them.

          I’m talking about the folks in the comments above who write as if they are fantasizing about shooting someone regardless of actual threat to fulfill some kind of dirty harry benefit to society. It amazes me how some people can pay lip service to a religion and twist themselves in logical knots to avoid the parts of it that don’t appeal to their base instincts.

    • The Vikings had a law to that if you were robbed and did not do everything in your power to stop the robber, you were partially at fault for their next robbery.

  11. “To most rational people, this is a textbook case of cause-and-effect at play . . .”
    .No! You’ve got it wrong.
    This is a textbook case of CORROLATION, not cause and effect.
    One could rationally say that there is a correlation between the number of burglars shot and the number of burglaries.
    This does NOT rationally say that BECAUSE of the number of burglars shot, there has been a reduction in the number of burglaries. It certainly suggests a POTENTIAL relationship between the two.
    Correlation is NOT causation.

    • I think in this case you are wrong about that.

      If you shoot a burglar that without being shot was going to continue his life of crime, and as a result of being shot he no longer commits those crimes…that’s pretty darn causative for a reduction.

      The vast majority of crime is committed by a tiny minority of people. Reducing the number of criminals CAUSES a reduction in crime.

      • Yeah, thieves are generally not of the “one and done” type. Unless they’re unlucky and are the recipient of fatal wounds during their first time out.

  12. This very thing has happened in my city south of Chicago. And I live in a relatively pro 2A town.

  13. The anti-safety pro-victimization pants wetters are writing Twitter posts bleating that “legal murder is no solution to crime.”


  14. I think you’re mis-reading his point– I think it’s more the fact that the ratio of folks choosing to confront burglars with weapons has increased. That is– of the burglaries occurring far more involve confrontation with an armed homeowner since there are more shootings despite there being a decreased number of burglaries. I don’t think the author was trying to make any kind of connection or point about why the number of burglaries has dropped, just that burglars are being shot more often- not just in raw numbers but as a percentage of the number of incidents.

    Previously there were more burglaries with fewer people getting shot.
    Currently there are less total burglaries but more intruders being shot.

    Kind of like in LA when there was a drop in total number of gang related shootings, yet the deaths per shooting ratio climbed. Folks wondered why there would be more deaths with less shootings occurring. Supposition was that the reduced capacity magazines had the unintended affect of gang-bangers aiming vice spray and pray. I don’t buy that as the reason, but it was disc

  15. Um, maybe he’s surprised because [he feels] there is a pretty stable percentage of people equipped and willing to shoot burglars, so with fewer burglaries being committed there should be fewer burglar/shooter interactions.

    He’s not necessarily a doofus, but rather less than eloquent.

    A an aside, shooting a non-entry burglar is pretty dicey in many jurisdictions; I wish the headliner luck with that.

  16. My thinking is a little different – Why would left-wing journalists want to dissuade the general population from owning/using firearms? What other motive could they have? Well, maybe THEY’RE burglars too!!! I mean what kind of scratch do they make, spewing their stupidity? It would certainly be in their best interest if the population was unarmed…

  17. I see a lot of people arguing that you should not let a burglar flee, that you should chase them. Legally, in most states the answer is no, that you should let them flee, but let’s put the legality aside for a moment. The outcome of a gun fight is never predictable. Did you account for every variable? Does he/she have an accomplice waiting outside to ambush you? What if the police mistake you for the bad guy while you are chasing him/her. What if you shoot and only injure him/her, and he/she turns around and shoots back? If you chase him, are you leaving your family defenseless while you plan the misguided hero? What if he/she runs and takes cover behind an obstacle to get a better shot at you while you are running at him/her in the open? I could go on and on. The most survivable gun fight is the one you never have. (I believe Jeff Cooper said that.) If he wants to run, let him run. Your primary responsibility is the protection of your family. But, if he doesn’t run, take the gloves off and fight with everything you have.

  18. There are daily examples of firearms being used to save a life, to protect, as a hobby. Yet you NEVER see this reported in the big USA broadcast mediums.

    For the most part, along with the anti-gun groups, are the most dangerous entities in all of the USA, if not the entire world.

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