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David Frum has a piece at “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.

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?

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  1. Having read the paper claiming the 2.5 million number a while ago, the methodology employed to arrive at that number is very shoddy making the claim highly dubious.

    • I haven’t seen a study on DGU’s where I liked the methodology. I suspect it’s nearly impossible to track comprehensively though. But I do damn well know DGU’s that are 100 % legitimate do occur at least semi-regularly, and know some people that have. And if even their study is indicating over a million annually? Then holy balls, they’re not rare.

      That said, risk are easily managed so I’m comfortable with my choice to keep guns handy.

    • Kleck’s work is shoddy? That will be news to him. A major problem with studies by the DOJ is that when they call a random home for an interview, they must identify themselves as being with the DOJ. Kleck didn’t have that problem when he did the National Self Defense Survey. By the way, Kleck’s numbers were supported by subsequent independent surveys. The right number is still 2.1-2.5 million DGUs per year.

      • If you followed his work at least cursory and the criticism it has received I don’t think he’d be surprised to be accused of having done shoddy work.

        • I do follow his work, and while criticisms are common, i would be surprised if he has not responded in a way that addresses the claims made. You can find fault with Kleck’s conclusions if you like, but you really cant fault the guy’s commitment to good science.

      • add one more from yesterday, at the Ft. Bragg area, bird shot and two idiots don’t mix well and that young wife held her ground very well.

  2. When this self-styled intellectual fop from Canuckistan puts down his purse long enough to actually go out into the real world and discover how things actually work on the street, then perhaps someone should pay attention to him.

    About, oh, seven years ago, I had a correspondance with him to give him some facts on why Class 8 OTR trucks don’t have fuel mileage on par with automobiles, and that, in fact, the diesel engine industry had plenty of efficiency gains by going from 4MPG to 6MPG. He was complaining that truckers and truck companies had not kept pace with auto companies’ improvements in mileage.

    That someone would wonder why a OTR truck doesn’t get 25+ MPG… shows a depth of ignorance that should disqualify someone from being able to vote.

    So y’all shouldn’t expect too much common sense or facts on the issue of guns from this source.

  3. Having been involved in not one but two DGU’s involving home invasion I can tell you that having a firearm in the house, loaded and handy, saved us both times.
    Anyone who breaks into your home, while you are there, is more than likely going to do you and Your’s some type of harm.
    BG’s who are just looking for a quick buck or quick fix usually will case the house or home and wait till you are all gone, but the one’s who don’t care if they have to beat you or shoot you are going to break in regardless if you are home or not.
    The home being occupied at the time of the break in does nothing to deter those type’s of BG’s. Having a firearm loaded and close to hand will more than likely, with a little luck and the Good Lord watching over you, save the lives of you and/or your families!!!
    This guy is so far out of touch with the real world that he is probably an extra terrestrial alien himself, And from the looks of that melon sitting on his neck I would say that is a very real possibility!!

  4. I have had to stand my Ground twice, once in NC in the 60’s, car assault @ a drive in. then in the 80’s in Phoenix Az, Road rage at me. Only had to show the GUN both times, end of “battle”

    • There are numerous methods to count DGUs and get people to talk honestly, but its too much to explain here. Kleck and Kates do a good job of summarizing the methodology in their book, “Armed”. I highly recommend it.

  5. 1.7mil airbag employ in accidents per year so by this logic they are really rare and we should think really hard about having them in our cars, how many airbag that are employed really save live anyway?

  6. This idea that guns in the house are dangerous is utter tripe. I grew up on an acreage in Southern Ontario. We had 5 guns in the house, 2 shotguns and three rifles. In fact everyone in that area had guns. They were part of the woodwork. We used to walk around with them sometimes when we worked on the back 60 or just walked the property or whatever. You talked to your neighbor with your gun in your hand or resting on your shoulder. No one gave it a second thought. No one ever had any accidents with their weapons. We all knew how to use them. We got taught at an early age how to handle weapons responsibly. And then all of a sudden these liberals come along and start telling us how much of a problem we have how much danger we’re in. I mean these people are from another planet


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