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Our fearless leader suggested that I take a look at the flip side of the anti’s latest attack on our freedoms (a recycled strategy from the Clinton-era Public Health model of gun control): the monetary cost of gun violence. For example, the Center for American Progress touted the “fact” that the Virginia Tech massacre cost taxpayers $48.2 million (including autopsy costs and a fine against Virginia Tech for failing to get their skates on when the killer started shooting). It’s one of the antis’ favorite tricks: cost benefit analysis omitting the benefit side of the equation. So what are the financial benefits of firearm ownership to society? Read on . . .

In my post Dennis Henigan on Chardon: Clockwork Edition, I did an analysis of how many lives were saved annually in Defensive Gun Uses (DGUs). I used extremely conservative numbers. Now I am going to use some less conservative ones.

The Kleck-Gertz DGU study estimated that there are between 2.1 and 2.5 million DGUs a year in the U.S. The Ludwig-Cook study came up with 1.46 million. So let’s split the difference and call it 1.88 million DGUs per year.

In the K-G article Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun, 15.7 percent of people who had a DGU reckoned they almost certainly saved a life. Ignoring the ‘probably’ and ‘might have’ saved a life categories for simplicity, 15.7 percent of 1.88 million gives us 295,160 lives saved annually.

[NB: A number of people have questioned the 15.7 percent stat. Remember: many states regard the mere act of pulling a gun on someone a form of deadly force. In addition, virtually every jurisdiction in the nation requires that an armed self-defender must be in “reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm” before using (or in some places even threatening to use) deadly force.]

How can we get a dollar figure from 1.88 million defensive gun uses per year? Never fear, faithful reader, we can count on the .gov to calculate everything.

According to the AZ state gov’t, in February of 2008 a human life was worth $6.5 million. Going to the Inflation Calculator and punching in the numbers gives us a present value of $6.93 million.

So figuring that the average DGU saves one half of a person’s life—as“gun violence” predominantly affects younger demographics—that gives us $3.465 million per half life.

Putting this all together, we find that the monetary benefit of guns (by way of DGUs) is roughly 1.02 trillion dollars per year. Trillion. With a ‘T’.

I was going to go on and calculate the costs of incarceration ($50K/year) saved by people killing 1527 criminals annually, and then look at the lifetime cost to society of an average criminal (something in excess of $1 million). But all of that would be a drop in the bucket compared to the $1,000,000,000,000 ($1T) annual benefit of gun ownership.

When compared to the (inflation adjusted from 2002) $127.5 billion ‘cost’ of gun violence calculated by by our Ludwig-Cook buddies, guns save a little more than eight times what they “cost.”

Which, I might add, is completely irrelevant since “the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.”

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  1. Let’s keep this info to ourselves, shall we? Because if the Fed’s find out that there’s an untaxed trillion out there, we’ll be well and truly f^cked.

    • The over-under on that from the government perspective is whether those who would die would pay enough estate tax to offset their income taxes over the remainder of their lifetime.

      After some consideration, it makes sense for the Big Blue-State Machine to quietly get behind the more anarchic end of the Occupy movement. The government would, for reasons of propriety, prefer that the rich not be eaten per se, but for example Warren Buffet’s estate taxes would likely dwarf his annual contributions.

    • You can bet you are being taxed on it already!

      Here in NY where the gun laws are draconian, I know I am being taxed on it…since we are losing out on a huge portion of that 1 Trillion being saved, not to mention the cost of incarcerating the criminals that for some reason have the temerity to ignore gun laws, wreak havoc, commit costly crimes, and partaking in their favorite sport of killing the law-abiding gunless.

  2. “So 15.7% of 1.88 million (I’m ignoring the ‘probably’ and ‘might have’ save categories for simplicity) gives us 295,160 lives saved annually.”

    Bruce, not only did you overlook the “probably saved a life” part and divided this as a hard number, you’re also failing to allow for the ones that were completely bogus. A certain percentage of the so-called DGUs are really gun crimes themselves, easily justified because they’re aimed at criminals.

    Another thing you’re not doing is a simple practice in all mathematics, you check your figures and ask yourself if it makes sense. For example, if you try to calculate the square root of 144 and come up with .00012, you might think it’s an accurate answer unless you step back, so to speak, and look at it. Does it make sense? If you estimate approximately what it should be, does the answer make sense? No, it doesn’t so you have to go back to the drawing board and try to determine where you went wrong.

    In the same way, ask yourself this. In a country that has 15,000 murders a year, does it make sense that if not for defensive gun use there would be 300,000? Just look at that number. The answer should be obvious, even to you.

    • So common sense and nonsense are kissing cousins then. In your world, if it looks wrong it is wrong. In our world, if the data is reliable the conclusions based upon it should not be based on emotional bias. They should be formed on the basis of rational thought. These conclusions should then be submitted to others capable of analyzing both the data and the conclusions via same process. Present company excluded.

    • Oh how I love mikeb logic. So according to him rape, robbery and assault aren’t really crimes and don’t count as DGU. The only possible reason for using a sidearm is if you are about to be murdered.

      • Question #2 to this whole “equation” is how do you ‘count’ the lives saved when a shooter is taken out before the COMPLETION of their intended assault?
        Such as the CCW Lady at the Wal~Mart when she sacrificed her own life to take on the 2 Cop Killer assassins as they entered the Store…giving “warning” to tall of the ‘waiting victims’ — both shoppers and employees — and giving them precious seconds to ESCAPE the Store thru the back doors…
        The shooters had multiple weapons, and several magazines of additional ammo..and after the shot the un-named HERO, they went roaming thru the Store looking for more people to shoot! Until they heard the Police coming, and they sought refuge..and then killed themselves. So, how many of the employees and shoppers “count” as SAVED LIVES!! [And will Wal~Mart or any of those saved ‘potential victims’ do anything to THANK and reward that lady’s Family for her bravery and SACRIFICE? And has the Media even given her CREDIT for what she did? Diane Sawyer is the ONLY media person I have heard to say ANYTHING about her except to identify her simply as a third shooting victim…

    • In the same way, ask yourself this. In a country that has 15,000 murders a year, does it make sense that if not for defensive gun use there would be 300,000?

      Sure. Why not? Explain why you think that this doesn’t make sense?

        • m-b, i read somewhere recently that Conservatives think; leftists feel. I am a Conservative. You are a leftist.

          Well, technically the quote contained the words Conservatives think and Liberals feel, but since real, or Classical Liberalism, is defined as being…

          “committed to the ideal of limited government;
          Rule of Law;
          Due Process;
          Individual Liberty; and includes…
          Freedom of Religion;
          Freedom of Speech;
          Freedom of the Press;
          Freedom and Right of Assembly;
          Free Market-based economy…

          I thought I’d just cut to the chase, call a Spade a Spade, and not add one. Additional. Speck of sand to the Big Lie mountain that decades of leftists/communists/progressives/dhimmicrats continuously co-opting the term “liberal” for themselves has turned into.

          Just my $0.02 worth


      • @RonF – concur, and i’ll back it up with actual data. Back in the late 1980’s through to 1992 or so, Puerto Rico, with a population of 3.9 million on an island 110 x 35 miles, was averaging between 2,700 and 3,100 murders annually.

        Why so many? Gun Control laws there made (and still make…) it difficult for the average, law abiding citizen to well and properly arm himself. Compound this leftist suicidal social policy by the following factors: a then-understaffed and poorly paid local police force; scarce few other L/E agencies; and a geographic area 3 times larger which to defend against narcotics traffic then attempting to cross into the island illegally so as to then transport drugs north using conventional modes that weren’t subjected to Customs inspections.

        Let’s use mikeb logic, and extrapolate those numbers into a city like New York. Permanent population of 9 million, but with a daily, in-transit population number of 20 million (commuter workers, airlines, drive-throughs, tourists). Divide that 20 million by PR population and you have a factor of 4, so that’s now 12,000 murders in NYC per year.

        So yes, mike attempts the same use of numbers as does the C4AP – and what doesn’t surprise me, but in making the same argument in the same way (statistics gotta love ’em; use what you want and scoff at the rest as preposterous…), makes the case for the original article even stronger.

        BTW, I’ve lived the above, and was active duty Coast Guard at the time I was there, so I was on the LEO side of this equation; just sharing so that any other mikeb’s that read this don’t think i’m pulling a rabbit out of my hat.


        PS: last exercise, can you imagine what NYC would look like if there were 12,000 murders a year there? They’d probably have the National Guard posted at major public transportation nexuses!! (oh wait, we already do that…)

    • mikeb,

      I see your point, but you are making the same mistake you are trying to call out. Note that those 15,000 murders are murders “completed” out of some much, much larger number of assaults that could have resulted in death. In the US the number of completed homicides that involve firearms are a big percentage of the total, call it 12,000 for simplicity.

      Since we know that, on average, gunshots that hit are lethal only 25% of the time we are looking at something like 48,000 attempts, based on “hits” alone. Since we also know that hit/miss ratios are incredibly bad across the board, at least for defenders (20% for cops, a bit higher for non-LEO defensive shooters), let’s say “successful hit” homicide attempts are 40% of “attempted shooting” homicides. Now we’re at 120K “homicide attempts with guns” that “could have taken a life”, all of which “count” as there is no way to determine before the shot is fired if the particular attempt will result in death or not.

      The majority of DGU’s don’t involve a shot being fired by either party, so the set of “attempted crimes with a strong likelihood of taking a life” deterred by a DGU would include, but not be limited to, those “120K attempts with a firearm with shots actually fired by the attacker”. It would include -all- crimes of violence, particularly with weapons, which could result in serious injuries that, but for luck and medical response, might have resulted in death. Again, there’s no way for the defender to predict prior to the event how events will play out or if EMS will arrive in time, etc., etc.; the defender can only rationally assume “worst case” and respond accordingly.

      Anyway, the math isn’t “15,000 murders” becoming “300,000 murders”, it’s “15,000 murders occur today in spite of 1.8M successful DGUs opposing a far greater number of millions of potentially fatal violent assaults;” versus “the untold thousands of potential deaths (perhaps 300K) that might have occured if those 1.8M DGUs -didn’t- successfully interrupt those millions of potentially fatal violent assaults.”

        • He’s not saying that walking out your front door is potentially fatal. He’s saying that a guy in a ski mask sticking a gun in your face and saying, “Give me your money or I’ll kill you!” is potentially fatal. Or do you not see the difference?

          As to “bizarre and unrealistic” numbers, see my reply, below. I pulled my numbers straight out of the FBI’s 2010 UCR, and came up with nearly 1 million cases where a lawful DGU could have prevented a potentially lethal attack.

          • “a guy in a ski mask sticking a gun in your face and saying, “Give me your money or I’ll kill you!””

            And that happens how many times a year, according to you?

            • According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2010, there were 249,997 robberies committed with a weapon.

              You were saying?

    • You are such an annoying little – oh, hey! What do you plan on doing when your parents’ basement gets flooded?

  3. Not surprisingly, you missed the point. Again.

    In the study quoted, There were multiple categories of responses. Almost Certainly, Probably, and Might Have are separate categories. Almost Certainly accounted for 15.7% of the responses. 15.7% is a hard number.

    If Bruce had also included the Probably and Might Have responses in his analysis, or even just a reasonable fraction of them, then the number would have been much larger.

    As to the second half of your “argument,” it’s very difficult to determine how many DGU’s would have resulted in murder, since the DGU prevented the criminal attack from taking place (or stopped a criminal attack in progress).

    However (stay with me here), if we pull some numbers from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2010:

    In 2010, an estimated 1,246,248 violent crimes occurred nationwide. Aggravated assaults accounted for the highest number of violent crimes reported to law enforcement at 62.5% (778,905). Robbery comprised 29.5% (367,643) of violent crimes, forcible rape accounted for 6.8% (84,744), and murder accounted for 1.2% (14,955) of estimated violent crimes in 2010.

    Digging a little deeper, we find that 72.6% (565,485) of aggravated assaults and 68% (249,997) of robberies are committed with a weapon. If we add these two numbers together, along with the total number of forcible rapes (84,744) and murders (14,955), then we come up with the following:

    According to the FBI 2010 Uniform Crime Report, there were an estimated 915,181 violent crimes in which the victim could have been said to have a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm, and met the legal criteria for a lawful DGU.

    Now, to go back to the number you took issue with: “295,160 lives saved annually.” Now, shocking as it may be, you’re right about one thing: not every one of those DGU’s would have resulted in murder. 98.8% of them would probably only have resulted in aggravated assault, robbery, or forcible rape, which I guess is ok, just as long as no violent criminals get killed by a lawful gun owner. Because that would be bad.

    • That was intended to by a reply to Mike by the way, but it didn’t go where it was supposed to.

  4. Only about 80 million American citizens have guns, so if the government would buy and issue guns to the remaining ~300 million citizens we could solve our budge problems in one stroke!

    • Eh, not so much. The benefit does not accrue entirely to the government. And given that the numbers already come from population-level surveys, the maximum benefit may be reached before the last person of the unarmed 300 million is issued a weapon. Furthermore by law the 80 million or so firearm owners are all adults, leaving those under 18 out of the eligible population for firearms ownership.

      In short, there are not 300 million potential current firearms owners in the US, there is probably a point of diminishing returns short of full adult firearm ownership, and the benefits would not all accrue to the government in any event.

  5. Thats worthy of a tweet:

    #ILoveObamaCare because Defensive Gun Uses save the US Economy over $1trillion a year.

  6. In states that have adopted varying forms of ‘right to carry’ or ‘shall issue’ laws, violent crime has decreased following the law change. It would be interesting to use the numbers for before and after, and adjusting them for growth/decline of population and run the dollar sums based on that.

  7. Well my wife and I are retired, drawing Medicare and Social Security+ our small pensions. So if we are murdered it would proably save the government money. Still, we are more than financial instruments. We own and carry firearms because we have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    What is the value of a grandmother’s hug or Gramps telling the story of his war in Viet Nam or HIS dad’s story of that long walk through the lagoon at Tarawa after the boats hung up on the reef?

    These stories have what monetary value? Yet those stories are America, along with millions of others.

    Thinking of human beins as mere economic fators is hardly what the Lord intended.

    • Good for you. It’s a free country, you can do that if you want. But, the fact is, using your gun to save the day is extremely less likely than that it will be misused in some way, and that makes your decision a bad one, in my opinion?

      • The only study that reached this conclusion has been thoroughly debunked. What proof do you have that it’s true? If you can’t provide any you are guilty of nothing less than fear mongering. Not to mention self-delusion and anti-constitutional propaganda.

        • That’s a laugh. Don’t you think you’re the one who’s “fear mongering.” I’m the one who’s saying that to arm yourself at home is lunacy. You’re the one who keeps telling us how frightening the prospect of not having a gun when you need one is.

      • @m-b:
        “…using your gun to save the day is extremely less likely than that it will be misused in some way…”

        Not true. You’re letting your feelings get in the way of the facts. Again.

        Look at the numbers in the original article. Look at the FBI stats. DGU’s are measured in the millions, even with the most conservative estimates.

        “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”
        – Sen. Pat Monyhan, (D)-NY

        “There are none so blind as those that will not see”
        – English Proverb


        • You’re letting your bias get in the way. Think about it like this. Every single time you touch the gun, you have the possibility of misusing it. That’s day after day, every day, every time you clean it, every time you put it away for the night, every time you get drunk or depressed, every time you get pissed off at the wife.

          On the other hand, how often do you have the opportunity to use the gun defensively?

          You see, that’s why my statement is right. The chances of misusing the gun are far greater than the chance of your using it to save the day.

          • @mikeb –

            “…Every single time you touch the gun, you have the possibility of misusing it...”

            you commented earlier on how unrealistic it was to project 300 thousand potential murders from a base number, but i see now that projections can be used in certain circumstances.

            Substitute the Word Freedom in the following, and see if it rings familiar(ly hollow…) “extrapolation for me, but not for thee”.

            Another thing; DGU’s are distinguished from the other touches you list by one thing – the gun is loaded.

            Finally, of course I’m biased! I believe strongly in diversity – that’s why I have several weapons. And equality of outcome; I get nice groupings on my targets with each ammunition type – won’t win any competitions mind you, but i can promise you that sucker won’t get up again.

            BTW – consider turning in your driver’s license – Cars are much more complicated and dangerous items to be using/touching all the time, and there are so many more on the road that it’s no wonder there aren’t more fatal accidents.


          • So in your OPINION, millions of law abiding gun owners in the United States are just one bad day away from shooting their wives in a drunken rage.

            If that’s true, it should be pretty easy to prove. Please provide links to studies conducted by unbiased parties which support your position.

          • Mike,

            The actual numbers don’t support your position, which indicates the bias is on your side. DOJ studies confirm that non-prohibited persons simply don’t commit crimes of volition with their firearms on a statistically significant basis and CCW studies show that lawful carriers misuse theirs on a rate lower than police. The number of lethal firearm accidents is down to around 500 per year and dropping, with 300 million or so guns lawfully held in privste hands.

            On the other side, there are millions of violent crimes attempted and/or committed per year, uniformly by prohibited persons or folks with extensive criminal records, for which deadly force is expressly justified as a response and hundreds of thousands to millions of DGUs per year (15+ studies over decades).

            My, and every other non-criminally owned and carried, gun is statistically unlikely to actually be misused accidentally or criminally.

            And of course, fundamental individual and civil rights do not require empirical defenses, they start out absolute and restrictions are what need justifying.

      • What evidence do you have to support that assertion?

        There are at least 300 million guns in private hands in the United States (there’s good evidence to suggest that that number’s much higher, but this is the most well documented number). 70-80 million private adults own guns in the United States.

        There were around 500,000 (rounding up) violent crimes committed by a criminal visibly armed with a firearm in 2008 (That’s just 8% of all violent crimes).

        The CDC says that Americans use firearms to frighten away burglars from their home (not counting DGUs that occur outside the home) around 500,000 times per year.

        A Study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology shows around 1 million DGUs per year.

        So, to sum up, there’s about a 1 in 600 chance that a firearm will be used in a crime and about a 1 in 150 chance that a firearm owner will use their firearm in the commission of a crime.

        Meanwhile, there’s about a 1 in 600 chance that a firearm will be used by someone defending their residence and a 1 in 300 chance it will be used by someone defending themselves. There’s a 1 in 150 chance that a firearm owner will use their firearm to defend their homes and a 1 in 75 chance that they’ll use it to defend themselves.

        In other words, you’re about twice as likely to use your firearm to defend yourself from crime than you are to use it in the commission of a crime.


        • “…Every single time you touch the gun, you have the possibility of misusing it…”

          EXACTLY why his parents won’t let him take the car again tonight.

  8. Which means the NRA can *easily* pay Trayvon’s parents almost $7-million in cash ($3.465-million/half-life x 2 = Trayvon’s life).

    Your article. Their money. Pay up.

    • It’s not their responsibility, though, not are they culpable.

      His article. Your fantasy. Prove it.

  9. This article extrapolates from an absurdly tiny data set. Quoting from the study:

    A total of 222 sample cases of DGUs against humans were obtained. For nine of these, the R broke off discussion of the incident before any significant amount of detail could be obtained, other than that the use was against a human. This left 213 cases with fairly complete information. Although this dataset constitutes the most detailed body of information available on DGU, the sample size is nevertheless fairly modest. While estimates of DGU frequency are reliable because they are based on a very large sample of 4,977 cases, results pertaining to the details of DGU incidents are based on 213 or fewer sample cases, and readers should treat these results with appropriate caution.

    Stumbling on a trillion dollars of benefit from this evidence seems like a stretch. Question: do insurance companies recognize this effect? if true, it would be hard to miss. Do they give a break on premiums to gun owners? Just looking for a little insight from the free market.

    • @city dweller, if I may –

      I thought the article had a bit of tongue-in-cheek and was meant as a jab against the left which uses outrageous statistics as it winds it’s way towards a group-nod intoning “no guns for anyone”. At least, once the writer tossed in a $ sign of the value of a human life, and one provided by a government agency, no less.

      What is the value of a human life? For me, no doubt others, it’s priceless… but as we well know, others do not see it as such. It’s not the Trillion dollar claim, that’s reductio ad absurdum and where the jab at C4AP’s ribs sticks best. C4AP attempts to claim $ as justification for rendering a nation defenseless – shades of Nazi Germany citing the societal benefits to be achieved from dealing with “defectives” – and Mr. Krafft just gives it to them one better with their own medicine.

      The point, at least imho, is that there are DGU, they are legion, numbered in the near millions, and that lives have been saved by DGU – far more lives than have been taken by vermin where the victim didn’t have a firearm to protect himself.

      Finally, we’ve got mikeB – a bleeding heart leftie – not arguing that there are DGU’s, only stumbling about the numbers! That in itself is worth the price of admission on this thread 🙂

      Remember the modern-day context – lefties usually don’t address the data or the facts of a discussion; when presented with such inconveniences, they tend to fade, resorting to diversionary questions but not providing data or facts of their own.

      It’s fun to watch – kind of like an internet version of Stalinesque airbrushing, if you will…


  10. I would simply like to add this:
    Simply because a certain event is unlikely to occur, it’s not justifiable to leave yourself unprepared. Your house is unlikely to be burglarized, (depending on where you live), but you still lock the doors every time you leave correct?
    Saying, “it won’t happen to me,” is a big mistake because however small the chance is, the chance is still there.
    It’s better safe than sorry.

  11. “Which, I might add, is completely irrelevant since “the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.”

    So why can’t I carry a sword in public? I’m trained to use it and I’m a responsible sword owner. If part of the utility of a weapon in preventing crime is displaying it, what better than a sword? Nobody would mug someone wearing a sword.

  12. I think this has got to be one of the most asinine articles I’ve ever read. So much so, in fact, I don’t have the time nor the inclination to list all the very reasons why.

    Good luck, sheeple-nation. Hope you continue to like the taste of the grape Koolaid the NRA and its progency are serving you.

  13. Dear Mr Horses Buttocks
    Sense or not. Guns keep us a free nation. Guns are not just for hunting,, Guns are for the protection of oneself, ones family, to protect our neighbor, to protect our community, to protect our city, to protect our state.. Then there is another important reason that a citizen should be armed, to protect the United Stated citizens from living under a Tyrannical Government. The case right now being made by some people and i am one of them is that the Obama Administration is scaring the American People, keeping their thinking at a base level on how to survive from day to day and not the bigger picture of what our government is doing. IRS,EPA and a dozen more federal agencies have their foot on the neck American citizen and and have them scared. If the American citizen had a little more time to think they would know that Obama and his administration have just about stripped them of their constitutional rights under the Patriot Act And if Obama and his administration get the guns this will cease to be a free nation of the people. We became the greatest nation in the whole wworld and we are going to loose it with Obama and this administration and their social ideology.

  14. Americans, citizens of a third world country, under educated and from the time they are born instead of mother’s milk are getting violent video games, see violence on TV and everywhere in their cities instead of …… well, there is nothing they can get in the so called “best country in the world.” Hold it, they can get guns and lots of them! And because of everyone can pack an assault rifle some moron is coming up with a skewed statistic of how many lives were saved by Rambos with guns. Americans you are sick and certainly on the way down, you did rise quickly after the New World was discovered and you will fall just as fast.

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