Our friends at the Violence Policy Center (VPC) have been tracking gun violence committed by gun owners with concealed-carry permits (CCW) and you can view the data on a website that breaks down the numbers on a state-by-state basis since 2007. The information is informative but not definitive, for the simple reason that there is no requirement in any state which makes cops or coroners list whether a shooter was in possession of CCW or not. So we can assume that the 1,082 people who have been killed by CCW-holders in the last 10 years represents a rough estimate, at best, of the actual number of individuals whose lives ended at the hands of someone legally allowed to walk around with a gun.
It should be noted that 37% of the victims (400 of 1,082) of CCW-holders happened to have shot themselves to death, i.e., these were legally-armed individuals who killed themselves with their gun. The VPC has come in for its share of criticism for bunching suicides and homicides together, but the critics might take the trouble to look at the definition of violence used by the WHO, namely, an intentional attempt to injure oneself or someone else. And of course the fact that someone keeps a legally-owned gun in their home only increases the possibility of suicide, but since when did Gun-nut Nation ever care about risk?
The VPC is now expanding their study of CCW-holders who commit gun violence by posting weekly updates on events that highlight the risks posed by walking around with a gun. The first incident occurred in a small town outside of Sheboygan, WI, when two cousins got into an argument over money, one of them pulled out a gun for which he had a concealed-carry permit, got off 13 shots and two men ended up dead. The second incident took place in Allegheny County, PA, where two co-workers got into it during their night-time shift, went out into the parking lot to continue the argument, one pulled out his 9mm banger and that was the end of that.
The NRA is so convinced that we all should be walking around armed that they even have trademarked the phrase, ‘The Armed Citizen,’ and run a website inviting people to send them reports of armed citizens who used their guns to protect themselves and everyone else. Until recently, this website never captured more than 100 such events in any given year, but I notice that the monthly number of defensive gun use (DGU) now seems to be running about 25 per month, a much more aggressive listing process which I suspect is directly tied to the new concealed-carry insurance which the NRA is trying to peddle here and there.
Let’s say for sake of argument that armed citizens protect themselves or others from serious crime 500 times a year, or even 50,000 times. Recent research pegs the annual DGU number at somewhere around 70,000, but this number includes all the times in which the gun was brandished but not actually used.
On the other hand, the 20,000+ people who kill themselves each year with a gun don’t end their lives by waving the gun around. They use the gun very effectively because more than 80% of all gun suicide attempts end with a life being lost; no other kind of suicide attempt is successful more than 60% of the time.
I don’t believe the Violence Policy Center should be at all defensive about drawing attention to the fact that any time a life ends because someone pulled the trigger of a gun, that such an episode should be considered anything other than gun violence event. The fact that we do not possess an effective screening process for determining gun access based on someone’s propensity to hurt themselves doesn’t alter in any way the basic reason for owning a gun. And if you believe that guns were designed to do anything other than cause injury, you might want to camp outside Area 51 and wait for the Martians to land.