Those of us who consider ourselves members of the gun rights community have a natural antipathy to the mainstream media. Why not? The MSM has been in the bag for gun control since, well, ever. They’re ready, willing and able to publish misleading stats about important Second Amendment issues, without the slightest critical analysis. This is especially true about reports relating to Defensive Gun Use (DGU). Despite the dearth of data, the net’s lousy with stories perpetuating the myth that guns are more dangerous to their owners than bad guys. So when gun rights supporters read something that looks like a description of a righteous shoot, they have a natural tendency to take the account at face value. Big mistake. Here are three reason why you shouldn’t believe anything you read about DGUs . . .
1. Most Home Invasion DGUs involve drugs
Although there’s no hard data on “home invasions” (the FBI has no such classification), kibbitzing with cops, applying common sense and reading between the lines reveals that the vast majority of armed self-defense stories stem from bad guys who hold drugs and large amounts of cash trying to defend themselves against other bad guys who want that cash and those drugs.
It’s Sutton’s Law (based on the urban legend surrounding bank robber Willie Sutton): “Why do you rob banks? That’s where the money is.” While you may think all your tsotchkes and firearms are bandit bait—and I’m not saying they aren’t—the neighborhood drug dealer is the go-to guy for ripping off the good stuff. He’s also the dude whose misfortune doesn’t trigger copious amounts of police attention. Drug dealers tend to own at least one gun—and they’re prepared to use it.
In terms of parsing media reports on home invasions, keep in mind that the press can’t accuse the person who performed the DGU of drug dealing or fencing stolen goods or whatever—unless the cops help out in that regard. So the media just reports the DGU as a home invasion gone ballistic and calls it good. Well, not good. But not bad either. Which leaves a comprehension gap large enough to inspire millions of law-abiding Americans to purchase home defense guns.
There’s nothing wrong with that (the buying a shotgun or handgun part). But a decision is only as good as the information it’s based on. Given the reality of home invasion DGUs, an alarm system is a better first step for home security than a 12-gauge; most (not all) burglars will turn tail when the turning tail is good. And you never read about that. Just sayin’.
2. Many DGUs involve unreported domestic disputes
Random attacks on innocent civilians are scary, scary, scary. But they are statistically insignificant. Most people who shoot someone know the someone they shoot. Back of the envelope calcs here . . .
If you strip out gang-related shootings and rip crews (as above), I reckon you’ve halved the odds that any given news report of a street DGU and/or home invasion armed defense is a righteous shoot. Remove domestic disputes from the equation and there’s another big chunk of “clean shoot” data in the dumpster.
I speak specifically of love triangles. While the absolute number of crimes of passion is absolutely tiny, there’s no doubt that guns and sexual jealousy often intersect in the worst possible way. Not that I can think of a good way for that to happen, but you know what I mean. If not, here’s a classic example from denverpost.com headlined Man killed in home invasion shooting in El Paso County:
A 55-year-old man was killed by gunshot to his stomach last night after he allegedly broke into a home where his ex-girlfriend and another man were located, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department stated in a statement today.
“The preliminary investigation revealed the parties are not strangers,” the Sheriff’s Department stated.
None of those involved were named, including the man who was killed. The Sheriff’s Department also did not say how the shooting happened or who fired the shot, citing its ongoing investigation. No charges were filed as of Sunday afternoon.
Law enforcement was initially called to the home at 15120 North Ellicott Highway west of Calhan at 7:40 p.m. Saturday on a report of burglary in progress, the Sheriff’s Department stated.
This may be a righteous shoot, but who knows? But I can tell you that this kind of three-way dynamic between shooter and shootee is not always reported. As the above story indicates, sometimes it’s misreported as a burglary.
3. Everyone lies
The media is both business and agenda-driven; they have good reasons to spin the facts about a DGU one way or another. If it’s a tale of an old person pulling the trigger on a young person with a prior or eight, they share prosecutors’ tendency to consider it a job well done, no matter what. If it’s a young urbanite of color shooting another young urban dweller of color, “police are investigating.”
For the sake of expediency and dramatic tension, a DGU must fit a template. The best/worst example of the media’s willingness to plug-n-play DGUs: shootings involving off-duty cops. If an off-duty cop shoots a civilian they are always in the right—even when they’re not. Does the press send a reporter out to find out if there was a “business relationship” or some interpersonal beef between the cop and the dead guy? To quote Will Smith, oh Hell no.
In short, the chances that a report of a simple, righteous, random DGU being accurate are roughly the same as getting bitten by a shark after falling into the water due to a lightning strike, clutching a winning Powerball ticket. I’m not saying righteous shoots don’t happen. They do. I’m not saying you shouldn’t carry a gun. You should. But it’s best to read DGU reports with Gilbert and Sullivan’s sage advice in mind: “Things are seldom what they seem. Milk can masquerade as cream.” And so they do.