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The largest and most comprehensive survey of American gun owners ever conducted suggests that they use firearms in self-defense about 1.7 million times a year. It also confirms that AR-15-style rifles and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, frequent targets of gun control legislation, are in common use for lawful purposes, which the Supreme Court has said is the test for arms covered by the Second Amendment. …

Thirty-one percent of the gun owners said they had used a firearm to defend themselves or their property, often on multiple occasions. As in previous research, the vast majority of such incidents (82 percent) did not involve firing a gun, let alone injuring or killing an attacker. In more than four-fifths of the cases, respondents reported that brandishing or mentioning a firearm was enough to eliminate the threat.

That reality helps explain the wide divergence in estimates of defensive gun uses. The self-reports of gun owners may not be entirely reliable, since they could be exaggerated, mistaken, or dishonest. But limiting the analysis to cases in which an attacker was wounded or killed, or to incidents that were covered by newspapers or reported to the police, is bound to overlook much more common encounters with less dramatic outcomes.

About half of the defensive gun uses identified by the survey involved more than one assailant. Four-fifths occurred inside the gun owner’s home or on his property, while 9 percent happened in a public place and 3 percent happened at work. The most commonly used firearms were handguns (66 percent), followed by shotguns (21 percent) and rifles (13 percent).

Based on the number of incidents that gun owners reported, [Georgetown University political economist William] English estimates that “guns are used defensively by firearms owners in approximately 1.67 million incidents per year.” That number does not include cases where people defended themselves with guns owned by others, which could help explain why English’s figure is lower than a previous estimate by Florida State University criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. Based on a 1993 telephone survey with a substantially smaller sample, Kleck and Gertz put the annual number at more than 2 million.

Although less than one in 10 of the defensive gun uses identified by English’s survey happened in public places, most of the respondents (56 percent) said they had carried handguns for self-defense. More than a third (35 percent) said they did so “sometimes,” “often,” or “always or almost always.” About the same percentage reported that they had wanted to carry handguns in circumstances where local rules prohibited it.

— Jacob Sullum in The Largest-Ever Survey of American Gun Owners Finds That Defensive Use of Firearms Is Common

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47 COMMENTS

  1. Again with the facts and figures. The anti-gun mob accepts only facts and figures that “prove” the effectiveness of gun control. And the gun controllers always have the high card: “If it saves only one life, it is worth living with the restrictions.” That statement gets all the positive press/media coverage.

  2. The conclusion of the survey analysis overlooks something important: If the estimate of 1.6mil DGUs is close to accurate, then the life of the attacker is also saved. That might actually double the count of lives saved .

  3. I carry a side arm for the same reasons I keep a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher on hand.
    You have them and hope like hell you never need them. But, should the worst happen you have the best tool available.
    A couple weeks ago some meth head was evidently scouting for someplace to set up their meth lab. My dogs treed him and I kept him in the tree at gunpoint until the Sherriff’s deputy could arrive. We found his buddies parked in a camper a mile or so away on a neighbors pastureland. Called the Sherriff’s office and had them check things out. Idiots from down in Mobile thought they could set up their lab out in the sticks and not be noticed.
    Luckily, no injuries and the fools were both cooking their poison and were stoned stupid. One of the Deputies told me they were lucky not to have blown themselves up or cause a major fire with their set up.
    Now, was treeing the fool and holding him for LE a defensive gun use, or a cranky farm dog use? The dogs would not have actually hurt him, but had he become violent, or pulled the pistol he had on him, I might have.

    • was treeing the fool and holding him for LE a defensive gun use, or a cranky farm dog use?

      Anywhere North of the Mason Dixon you would most likely have been charged with kidnapping or at least unlawful detention and your dog would have been labeled “aggressive” and been put down.

      • Thank God for the South. Buddy of mine lives in the mountains of NC, and had a similar story involving his two Great Pyrenees, his 870, and a naked junkie at 0200.

  4. Both times when I was reaching for my gun (2 different times) the act of reaching for it caused both individuals rapidly advancing towards me to instantly turn 180 degrees and remove themselves from my presence as fast as they could.

    Thinking about that right now, could this be a strategy for dealing with a potential attack in an area where you’re not able to be armed?

    • Geoff,

      I had one similar experience. I crossed a basically empty parking lot to my car at a strip mall when a man started walking toward me across the parking lot. He was wearing a COVID-19 mask and a hooded sweatshirt–with hood up and both hands in hoodie front pockets. When he realized that I saw him, he increased his pace and asked for something. I replied with a stern and very unfriendly, “no!”. He kept coming, asked something again, and I replied, “no!” again. He kept coming. At that point I moved around my car for cover and started reaching toward my hip. Sweatshirt dude immediately broke-off before I even had to draw.

    • A firearm was used for self-defense 1.7 million times. These are only the ones that have been reported. How many go unreported? I’ll bet it’s more than 1.7 million more. I truly believe that. Even some of the reported instances are not published because of media bias. Tyranny is coming and it won’t be stopped because too many people are sleepwalking through life when it comes to the really important issues. They vote with their feelings and not with their intellect. We can only pray and put our faith in God because man will always let us down.

      • ~300,000 annually are with borrowed firearms, these are not reflected in the ‘1.7. million’, and ~200,000 annually go unreported but its got to be considered what ‘unreported’ means.

        ‘unreported’ does not mean the person did not report it, although sometimes they don’t report it because it didn’t amount to much and the police would likely not generate a report anyway. For example, that guy who starts acting insistent on moving towards you in a parking lot at night with something in his hands trying to keep you talking and distracted as he gets closer you scared off by showing your firearm and that’s a DGU – so if you did call the police when the police show up its likely not going to be a report but rather in most jurisdictions maybe a blotter entry (or nothing) if you can’t articulate a specific action the guy did that violated the law because simply moving towards you in a public parking lot is not a crime so they are not going to spend time on a report so in stats it goes unreported because reports and stats reflect crime that’s in violation of law. Same thing, for example, most times if you scare an intruder off before they start breaking in, especially if you can’t identify them, and it comes down to your word against theirs. For example, the guy in the parking lot can claim he was just walking through the lot if for some reason the cops do locate him and the would be intruder can claim he/she wasn’t even on your property unless there is evidence showing him/her there so the police are not going to bother with a report although they might generate a blotter entry or a field interview type entry thing. So in a lot of the smaller incidents a lot of people don’t bother to report and police don’t bother to report.

        • Someone who is carrying a concealed weapon without a permit will never incriminate themselves by reporting an incident where no shots are fired. There are people out there who have been denied a concealed carry permit for one reason or another but are still carrying because they believe that old adage: “It’s better to be tried by twelve than carried by six.”

  5. “It also confirms that AR-15-style rifles and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, frequent targets of gun control legislation, are in common use for lawful purposes, which the Supreme Court has said is the test for arms covered by the Second Amendment. …” So, with the “in common use” standard for 2A coverage, the AR would have been not covered at its initial introduction in the 60s; the 1911 semi-auto before 1920; the repeating rifle at its introduction; the self-contained cartridge at its introduction…… This “in common use” criteria would prohibit the introduction of new firearm technology…..ie “micro stamping technology” firearms….or new “light….you’ll flash your eye out…guns.”

    • You make a good point, though I don’t know why anyone still refers to the old “in common use” test as that was a previous test that was replace by the much better “text and history” test from the Bruen decision.

  6. Gee, dacain the Dunderhead and MINOR Miner49er don’t think anyone an survive being a victim if they fight back.

    • oops, it appears that you errantly used dacian and miner irritant along with think in the same sentence. Come on , grammatically we’re better than that.

      • Oh, it’s gramatically correct but you may have a point. saying that either dacian the DUNDERHEAD or MINOR Miner49er think is a stretch.

  7. My one DGU was statistically unusual especially for the time as it was in a public place and there were five of them. They lost interest when I took off my jacket displaying my old stainless 1911 on my belt, and they left the area. The one change I made after that was to start carrying my spare magazine on my belt instead of in my pocket, but my wife and I did continue to go back to that trail until we moved from the area. It has since been developed as a recognized trail, and is a truly beautiful area. You can see a video of the place as it now is:

  8. I dont go with the Supreme Courts “In common use” crap.
    The Right to Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed.
    In common use, okay in 15 years the military has ray guns but since it’s only the military that has them then those arms are not in common use.
    Bullshit on the new and improved Supreme Court.

    • Still waiting for the DOD to finish the m855a1 and m80a1 ammo stockpile update to see if it will be made commonly available for civilian purchase as m855 and m80 are (let alone the “replacement” rifle). They will fight allowing anything advanced to be outside of their direct control constitution or no.

  9. “It also confirms that AR-15-style rifles and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, frequent targets of gun control legislation, are in common use for lawful purposes, which the Supreme Court has said is the test for arms covered by the Second Amendment.”

    This is a test that bothers me. If there is some major advancement in firearms technology, the government could theoretically step in and ban such arms based on that technology before they became in “common use”. Or at least strip that defense from a legal challenge. As it is right now, you will not get the NFA and/or Hughes Amendment tossed under “common use” since automatic weapons are not common.

  10. Anyone with even an ounce of intelligence knows that the 2nd Amendment isn’t about hunting and shooting sports. We have a Liberal cabal in this country that wants to disarm the American people so they can impose a tyrannical government on them without fear of reprisals. Our Forefathers knew what it was like to live under tyranny and amended the Constitution to give the American people the power to combat tyranny from their own government. Freedom can be very dangerous, but tyranny is even more dangerous.

  11. It’s not a question of LAWFUL possession of Semi-Autos. Of course they are lawful and the vast majority used for lawful purposes. I would have thought that’s so obvious that it does not need stating. It’s the NESSESSITY of them in the first place that’s the problem.

    • Albert L J Hall, As usual, you are talking through your hat. Necessity has NOTHING to do with owning, possessing or shooting a semi-automatic firearm. If you bother to read the Bruen, Heller, and McDonald Decisions you would realize that necessity does not enter into the equation.

    • It’s the NESSESSITY of them in the first place that’s the problem.

      I don’t “NECESSARILY” need a Corvette when a Yugo (do they still make them?) would do the job just as well however I prefer to drive a Corvette and (unlike you) I can AFFORD to buy what I what without being double taxed AND government restricted. If God did not intend for me to have that Corvette, he would not have guided Zora Arkus Duntov to develop it in the first place… OBTW: how’s your new King thingy working out, heard he put the Queens two Corgis in the line of succession AHEAD of Harry and Meghan. (Thanks Babylon Bee)…

      • “It’s called the bill of rights, not bill of needs.”

        While you are correct, ponder the 6th word in the Second Amendment.

      • It’s called the bill of rights, not bill of needs

        And nowhere in OUR Constitution does it require “Mother May I” to exercise ANY of those rights, unlike the slimy limey, oh yeah I guess it’s “Daddy May I” now… Too soon?

  12. 1.67mil DGUs per year. 🤔

    Where’s lil’d, whiner, all hail and the trollfarm minions shouting for constitutional carry and national reciprocity laws for LTC holders?

    cUz…..iF iT sAvEs jUsT oNe LiFe dUrRrRr. 🤪

  13. Every criminal knows the sound of a gun cocking, and what the outcome may be !

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