Heritage Foundation defensive gun use database
Courtesy Heritage Foundation
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Heritage Foundation defensive gun use database
Courtesy Heritage Foundation

There’s good reason to believe that most defensive gun uses are never reported to law enforcement, much less picked up by local media or highlighted in national news stories.

While my inner lawyer knows that a gun owner should file a report every single time he or she has to draw a weapon, regardless of whether shots are fired, the reality is that many people see such instances as complete non-events, unworthy of getting the police involved.

Worse, gun owners may have a very real fear that calling law enforcement opens the doors for too many legal technicalities that will result in the gun owner—not the criminal—being arrested.

Still, while the Defensive Gun Use Database merely scratches the surface of the importance of the Second Amendment in American society, it provides a much-needed counterbalance to the many false narratives about gun ownership.

Most importantly, the database gives hard evidence to support what Americans instinctively know: The government cannot always be there to protect your individual rights and liberties from criminals.

– Amy Swearer in A Counterbalance to the False Narratives About Gun Ownership

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  1. I agree with the article completely and only wish to add that I have nothing to add.

    • I certainly never called the cops or filed a report some years back when I drew my weapon to convince a group of four men that they should re-think their intention to assault and mug me. The thugs turned and left me alone, I went home to my wife safe & sound, and the cops never knew.

  2. “Worse, gun owners may have a very real fear that calling law enforcement opens the doors for too many legal technicalities that will result in the gun owner—not the criminal—being arrested.”

    What I experienced ^, right there. Don’t ask. Can’t talk about it, except very obliquely, until after the courts & I settle up. I will say it’s all BS of a supreme order.

    • If you can, please write the story for TTAG.
      I’m sure I’m not the only one who would like to know the circumstances, the legal ramifications for you, and the end result.
      Maybe even start a crowd funding page you can link to.

      This could be a good lesson or teachable moment for a lot os is.

      • I’d like to Tom, upon considering the circumstances, it’s not a good idea until I move far out of state. When it all comes out in the wash, there’s a quite real possibility of badge(s) being repossessed by the people.

        This is crushing financially, & I was already in a bad spot. Given the very nature of the situation, I would have to decline crowd sourcing. Regardless, this one is not a good poster child for such campaigns anyway, tbh. Between the rock and a planetary mass object, is where I am at.

        • 9×39,

          My heart goes out to you. Saw this happen to a friend; nearly ruined him. No good reason except the DA was up for re-election.

        • @ LifeSavor & Dude

          Thanks for the well wishes. 🙂 Pretty sure this one’s in the bag, assuming they can be bothered to review the mountains of evidence in my favor. Knowing that doesn’t really help with the trepidation.

        • Sorry for your situation. Perhaps someday you can tell your story here, but in the meantime, protect yourself from any legal fallout or retaliation.

        • Well, that’s particularly shitty.

          Hope things are looking up for you soonish there 9×39.

    • And for anyone who thinks the courts only care about what’s legal and “I’m ok because I didn’t violate the law”…. lots of prosecutors are not concerned with that, and are not concerned with guilt or innocence, they ask themselves only one question up front and that is “can I convict this guy?”

      • That’s a valid concern, speaking from experience again. I don’t have any recommendation’s for (or against), but I am bewildered, as it’s exactly what I’ve run into.

      • Agreed, a major worry. Facts and evidence can be spun either way. The character of the police leadership and the prosecutor will determine a great deal of what happens to you once you use a gun to defend yourself.

    • This, along with the article, is a perfect article about just how far the USA has moved along the path to being a third-world country. There are places in the world—mostly third-world places—where everybody works very hard to avoid any communication with government authorities, cops in particular. We almost there.

  3. I have 2 almost DGU stories. Both happened in the same week in May 2018. First was 3 guys approaching me at an unusually quite gas station at 0730. Guy 1 I assume to be the leader was open carrying a fixed blade knife, he approched me kinda quick from behind while I was entering my car. My spidy sense tingling I slammed the door and locked my car, he kept approaching me, after adding distance and my car between us, I bluffed and yelled stop with my left hand out reached and went for my waste band with my right. He and his 2 buddies got the message and ran for their car. I was on my way to work and wasn’t actually carrying, so it was a bluff, but they didn’t know. If I hadn’t been a concealed carrier I don’t think I would have thought to bluff them out. I didn’t report this to the cops. There was no “crime”, just suspicious activity, even though I’m pretty sure they planned to car jack me.

    #2 Was a drunk/tweaker trying to kick open my door at 4am. The dead bolt held until he got tired, I was on the other side behind cover with my pistol yelling stuff like “wrong door, cops on the way, etc” During this the wife armed herself with a rifle and got our daughter to cover too. The police arrived 45 min later and found him passed out in front of the condos, he was taken to the hospital to find out what he was under the influence of. If the dead bolt hadn’t held he would have been going to the hospital with gun shot wounds.

    I have posted these before and I will likely post them again. I do it in case one person reads these and learns something (like when you need an officer they’re only 45 minutes away) Or if they learn anything can happen, even in a nice suburban area, and to always be armed and have a plan.

  4. I will NEVER call 5-O again short of an army of zombies attacking my home. Crime has had a yuuuuge uptick in my hood. And the po-leece are pathetic…

        • The cops will just join the zombies.

          Better to have a good backhoe so you can dig a trench around the house. They fall in and as they climb out they’re an easy target. When it’s over just pour in a little gasoline and a match and prepare for the next night.

      • In the movies the cops serve as a tasty treat to distract the hungry zombies while Milla Jovovich gets out of her little red dress and into her tactical black outfit and gear on to save the day.

        Or, you know, Brad Pitt for those ladies in the audience 🙂

        • Mmmmmmmm….

          Now she’s in her 40s and still looks good… 🙂

        • Geoff “Guns. LOTS of guns…” PR — I’m guessing you’d “eat” anything. Milla is a leftist, through and through. She supports gay rights yet claims to be orthodox Christian and believe in God. If she believed in God then she would NOT support perversion or leftism. God said, A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.

  5. I have USCCA carry insurance, which has changed my overall plans somewhat. I used to be happy with carrying a .380, including the fact that it was less likely than some other guns to drop an attacker dead at my feet. I figured that, in the unlikely event someone attacked me, a loud noise and something poking a foot deep into his body would cause him to leave. In that event, my plan was to allow him to leave, clean my gun, and forget it happened. All done, I did not need the police to help me, why call them? Getting your ass shot should be enough punishment, save the taxpayer some $$. In the unlikely event he whines to the cops that I shot him, my answer is that I don’t even know him, does he have a video? Does he even know my name?
    I have become more civilized, mostly due to aforementioned insurance, but I can still imagine circumstances wherein I would not report a defensive shooting. But my decision to be my own first responder is decades old, has nothing to do with current events.

    • Well, if his blood is on your sidewalk and your bullet is in his body, then the “I don’t even know him” is just going to get you in trouble.

      At the very least, don’t talk to police. But that sort of situation is the exact sort of scenario that can turn out badly: you not calling the cops after you shot someone sure looks to a jury like you had something to hide.

      • It’s pretty easy to get rid of blood on a side walk (a little gas and a match). It’s also pretty easy to destroy the barrel of any small arms, especially handguns. Now where is that evidence?

    • I’m all for self defense. If some criminal puts you in fear of your life you are placed in a position of no good choices other than survival. So you do what you must. You are born with that natural right, we all are, to protect your life.

      But if you shoot somebody and do not report it?

      No matter how solid the evidence may be that you were in the right (security camera video?), you are going to be in a world of legal and financial pain when the cops track you down. Not reporting a shooting is going to create an undeniable crime out of your clear as crystal case of self defense.

  6. Even as an attorney, with 20 years of practice under my belt, I can understand the temptation not to involve the police. But giving in to that temptation is a phenomenally bad idea, for a host of legal reasons to involved meaningfully to explain to a layperson. It that a shitty thing for me to say, yes, yes it is, and I’m sorry to say it, but it is the truth about guns in the context of their use, and it’s too important to bullshit or speculate about. The legal and justice system is not your friend, and it has unreal potential to ruin you if you play “I just won’t call it in.”

    • I can see the sense of that if shots are fired, even if there is no injury or property damage. But does it hold true if all we are talking about is some level of brandishing to turn away a threatening individual?

      • Yes, especially when the other involved party is not dead. The most basic reason, and it’s not really a legal reason at all is that the justice system is adversarial with two opposing sides and forces – it has a good guy and a bad guy and doesn’t do nuance or shades of gray well. The perceived narrative drives a great deal of the legal response. Lawyers and police are trained (and socialized as part of American culture) that victims report crimes and that those who do not are perpetrators. The first person to call in will be cast as the victim, just based on how the system functions. The second caller can obviate some of that by calling in as well and portraying himself as the victim. But the guy who doesn’t call in and has his first contact with police when they show up to talk to him? He’s cast in the perpetrator role. The above is most likely when you have a you v 1 or you v multiple bad guy situation with no neutral or friendly witnesses, so it is that much more important when it is just your word v their word situation. On video or with friendly or neutral witnesses it’s less important to call in.

        • Criminals are more likely to call the police than are honest, normal folks. Criminals know how the system works.

        • The lawyer at our personal protection classes says to be careful how you call in to 911. There are 2 blanks on the incident form: victim and perpetrator, and you want to make sure you’re name in the “victim” one. Don’t say “I shot someone.” Say “Someone attacked me with a knife/broke into my house/tried to rape me/etc. I’m at 123 Main St. We need an amubulance (even if you think the bad guy is ready dead). Hurry.” Describe your injuries if you were hurt. Don’t give any incident details to 911. You can give a quick description of yourself (height, weight, ethnicity, hair, clothing) and the bad guy. Don’t stay on the line. Don’t have your gun out if possible. Don’t have it on you if possible. Call your lawyer (you should have one picked out ahead of time). When the police show up, talk about what the bad guy did. Tell them what you were afraid he was going to do. Don’t talk about your actions without your lawyer present. Don’t deny/refuse to answer. Just say something like, “I want my lawyer present before talking about that/ I’ll tell you once my lawyer’s here.” TELL them where the gun is when they ask about it. Let them pick it up or take if off you — don’t reach or point towards it.

    • I seriously doubt you’re a lawyer. First of all your writing is piss-poor and secondly you completely contradicted yourself with your last sentence!

  7. Never shot anybody. Don’t ever want to shoot anybody. I’ve had two opportunities to do so and both worked out more or less quietly. Both solved by pointing the gun, that’s all it took. Have always felt very lucky on those. Memories of both are vivid even after all these decades.

    One at 17, witnessed by Border Patrol in a wilderness area near a small California town, well east of San Diego. The Border Patrol took a long time to get a 4×4 down into that canyon, but they’d seen it all from an observation post on a peak and described it to me. Those men knew every step I’d taken, every action I took. They were kind of insistent that I get in with them for a ride out of the area, which is what happened.

    Another at 21 or 22, threatened by a some bikers I happened upon while exploring back roads in the desert in an old Ford pickup. Never thought to call the cops about this one, just got out of there and wouldn’t of known what agency to call or where to find a phone to call them from. I mean cell phones were not yet invented.

    I imagine most defensive gun uses kind of go that way. No shots fired, never reported as there doesn’t seem to be a need or anything that can be done well after the fact.

    Can’t really say what I’d do today as far as reporting a defensive gun use if no shots are fired, if no one is injured. If someone is injured though, absolutely it’s a call to 911 as rapidly as can safely be done.

  8. Forget about a dog fool, he’ll mess in the bed. Nowadays a gun is man’s best friend!

    • It’s best to have both. A dog is a great deterrent and early warning system. My Great Pyrenees is always outside, has full range of the property, and I have yet for anyone to enter my property on foot or exit their vehicle while she is visible. She is a bit smarter than most dogs as she doesn’t usually go running out and confront people, instead, she stays at a distance and signals by “casual” barking (as opposed to frantic or excited barking). This dog is an absolute lover of anyone with an outstretched hand, but her large size, deep bark, and initial perception is very intimidating.

  9. “Millions Of Americans Have Decided That They Are Their Own First Responder”
    And they always were, perhaps some have awaken and smelled the coffee.

  10. Check out the map. It looks like Vermont doesn’t have any defensive uses on the record. I don’t think they have many restrictions there outside of a recently enacted weird magazine ban. “A gun control bill, passed on March 30, 2018, bans sale of magazines of more than 10 rounds for long guns and 15 rounds for pistols.” You don’t even need a carry permit. Is there anything else that’s different? Not much need for defensive uses perhaps?
    It’s plainly obvious that lax gun laws don’t create more crime. More criminals create more crime.

  11. While I have had to draw my legal weapon a couple of times without using it (or calling the cops), I have an issue with the Daily Signal article referenced in the TTAG post: inflation of the incidents. I started by checking one that was in my home town. No armed and shooting attacker but attempted strangulation on an unarmed woman. The family member who defended the house wounded rather than killed the attacker. Other stories were equally inflated. In each case, the truth made the point just as well, but wasn’t sexy enough. Fox News syndrome I guess…

  12. Wrong. “The government cannot always be there to protect your individual rights and liberties from criminals”. Didn’t you listen to Mike Bloomberg? He says all we need to do is dial 911. Of course he also said anybody could be a farmer, but couldn’t get over $600,000,000 to produce anything to speak of. My fault Mike is a bad example.

  13. “While my inner lawyer knows that a gun owner should file a report every single time he or she has to draw a weapon, regardless of whether shots are fired, the reality is that many people see such instances as complete non-events, unworthy of getting the police involved…”

    Even if the police are involved there’s no national reporting for defensive gun uses that conclude without a shot being fired. Nor the infrastructure to easily create such reporting, unless you just make it self-reported.

  14. “you never had the right to bear arms! that 2A thing was for hunting! so why don’t you give up your right to bear arms? you’re a baaad dirty person if you don’t!”

  15. Tell me why we should call police for a non event? Do we want to be taken in for questioning, have our guns confiscated and be on several lists ?

    • People don’t understand the basics. 1) Anything you say to a cop can be used against you. 2) Anything you report becomes record which also can be used against you. 3) What can a cop do when the problem has been solved? Nothing good, but possibly bad!

      • 1) Anything you say to a cop can AND WILL be used against you. 2) Anything you report becomes record which also can AND WILL be used against you.

  16. Lol at the media report for the most recent case in my home state of NH, cited by the Heritage Foundation. Sounds like someone tried to be a hero by butting into a domestic quarrel in a Walmart parking lot, pulling his gun on this guy arguing with a woman. Mr. Hero didn’t expect the other guy to draw his own weapon and shoot him first. While technically yes this is a DGU, it is also a case study in what NOT to do when you carry. Mr. Hero chose to put himself into a situation that seems it truly could have been better handled with a 911 call, and also chose to brandish his weapon apparently without intent to use it (or I figure he would have shot first). He gets arrested as further thanks for his stupidity. So I would chalk this up as equal parts DGU and SGU (stupid gun use).

    If this is the quality of data going into the heritage foundation data base, it’ll be impossible to use in a rational discussion of gun laws. Too bad, b/c the concept is good. But GIGO.

    • Your post is nonsense. That is actually a very valid self defense. The guy who got shot (Mann) who you call “Mr. Hero” was not a “bystander”. he knew the woman and went with her and caused the confrontation in which he got shot.

      A guy (Stone) is separated from his girlfriend (Creighton). They agree to meet in a parking lot. She brings an armed new boyfriend (Mann) who attempts to turn it into a one way exchange by robbing or threatening the former boyfriend at gunpoint. The former boyfriend shots him in a valid self defense

      “Creighton later told police she knows Mann and spoke to him prior to the confrontation. She asked him to go with her to Walmart and told him that Stone had checks that belonged to her.
      She told police that Mann pointed a gun at Stone.”

      Just because some of your local newspapers left out half the facts, and portray the guyu who got shot as someone who just happened by, when that is not the case, does not mean this is not a valid self defense in which the defensive gun use good guy only drew when the other guy attempted to rob him.

  17. IF you have to use your gun in a life threatening time . You better kill them and good. And have the throw down handy what ever that may be. NO ONE IS ON YOUR SIDE BUT YOU AND YOUR LOVE ONES. THEY ALL SUCK. You know that the asshole breaking in your house are just as crooked as the courts and the so called law enforcement. Go thru life by putting yourself first SCREW the rest. The ONLY real self defense tool in this world is MONEY the more you have the more you can get away with. STAND UP FOR YOU.

  18. I guess it depends where in America you live. I can see problems associated with a DGU in any major metro center. However, where I live you would likely be presented with a crime prevention award.

    Our local Police have response times at approximately 2 minutes and rural sheriff deputies are at about 7 minutes. They do a great job. We are lucky, but then again our community supports and respects our L.E. We also do not have a large ethnic population, so there’s that. .

  19. Doing the “right” thing and reporting a DGU is a great way to get into trouble. Here’s what I can rattle off from the top of my head.

    1) Your word against his

    2) biased judges

    3) biased jurors

    4) Bail is expensive

    5) Court is expensive

    6) Self defense decisions have to be QUICK. You might not completely and calmly analyze the situation. Stupid jurors and judges who have never been in a similar situation may be cold and unsympathetic. They can indict you for shooting twice, for shooting when you also had pepper spray, for hitting the guy too many times, or any number of other things.

    7) Your attacker will likely not go to the police, especially if he is black (which, let’s face it, is about 50/50 per FBI statistics. Facts don’t care about race.)

    8) You can lose your job if the gun was illegal at your place of business, and you have to admit to it if you end up in court. If it is unreported, they don’t need to know.

    I will not confirm or deny whether any such thing ever happened to me, but I would personally keep my mouth shut unless shots were fired, or someone got hurt.

  20. A car drove up on my property one day, mid-morning. I grabbed my Glock and put it in my back pocket. As I rounded the woodshed, two guys were standing in the drive, each holding shotguns pointed in my general direction. Out comes the Glock, pointed directly at the older of the two guys. I instructed them to lose the shotguns, slowly and deliberately. They put them down. They explained they thought they would just go somewhere to hunt turkeys. I explained the concept of trespass and poaching. They unloaded the shotguns, put them in the cases, and drove off. Did not even think about calling the sheriffs.

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