Want To End Gun Violence? It’s The Guns That Count.

I just came across an article in the website of a local CBS affiliate station in Wisconsin – WKBT – concerning a new effort to deal with gun violence in Madison, WI. It’s a brief statement, but evidently Madison has been dealing with a growing crime and gun-violence problem over the last several years, with the Police Chief saying that it’s the worst he’s ever seen in his entire career.

may22Crime in Madison?  Are you serious?  This town of roughly 250,000 people is the location both of the State Capitol and the flagship campus of the University. It’s got great schools, lovely parks, plenty of local theater and arts groups and thanks to the university and the legislature has an unemployment level of somewhere around 4 percent or less. In 2008 Madison was ranked as the least armed and dangerous city in the entire United States.  So what’s going on?

Nobody seems to know, but there will now be a ‘coordinated approach to gun violence with a new program that includes representatives of agencies from the city and Dane County, including nonprofit groups.’ They will meet on a weekly basis at a local church ‘to share updates on incidents and discuss ways to address violence that go beyond police work.’

When it comes to dealing with crime, the term ‘coordinated approach’ happens to be a euphemism usually employed to disguise the fact that the police don’t have enough men and women in uniform to put an officer 24/7 on every corner where crime might otherwise occur. Because, like it or not, individuals who are prone to commit crime, particularly crimes of violence, seem to avoid hanging around with the cops. Think this is just a theory? Take a look at New York City where violent crime has dropped to the lowest levels in more than 60 years, okay?

Now one could argue that the most effective way to reduce violence, particularly gun violence, is to get rid of all the guns. But since owning a gun happens to be a Constitutional ‘right,’ the next best thing, according to my Gun-control Nation friends, is to pass laws which make it more difficult for these Constitutionally-protected items to fall into the ‘wrong hands.’ And according to the Giffords Law Center, Wisconsin sits somewhere in the middle of all 50 states when it comes to laws that regulate guns; the state gets a C- for the effectiveness of its gun-control policies and has a gun-death rate which puts it in the lower third of all states. That being the case, how come things are so much worse in Madison than in the rest of the state?

I’ll tell you why. Because the one piece of data which my dear friends in Gun-control Nation never seem to take into account is strength and activity level of the gun business in any particular state. And that’s because while the NICS checks can be analyzed on a monthly basis for each state, I have yet to see a single piece of research on the reasons or gun violence which takes this data into account.

In 2018, the FBI performed 26,058 background checks for gun transfers in Wisconsin, which works out to a per-100,000 monthly rate of 449.66. Now in California, the FBI conducted 67,661 2018 background checks, for a per-100K monthly rate of 171.  In other words, on a per capita basis, three times as many guns changes hands in Wisconsin as changed hands in the Golden State. And you don’t think this disparity wouldn’t in some way or another impact gun violence in Madison?  In 2014, of the 2,802 ‘crime’ guns whose origins could be traced by the ATF, nearly 85% were guns initially sold within Wisconsin – so much for the impact of gun ‘trafficking’ in this state.

There happens to be a very clear connection between gun violence rates and how many guns float around in a particular state. This isn’t because of weak laws – it’s because guns are legal commerce and the more guns bought and sold, the more guns end up being used the wrong way.

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Reducing Gun Violence The New York City Way.

How should we go about reducing gun violence? According to The New York Times, we need to adopt a ‘public health strategy’ based on lessons we learned in reducing fatalities from accidents involving cars. The approach favored by the less-compassionate crowd; i.e., Vladimir Trump and the NRA, is to ‘get tough’ on crime and lock all those ‘street thugs’ right up.

blight2              In fact, we seem to have a remarkable example of a successful drop in gun violence within New York City, where homicide numbers in 2017 might end up at the lowest level since the 1950’s, as well as representing nearly a 90% drop from the 2,245 homicides recorded in 1990, an all-time high.  To give you another perspective on these numbers, this year the city of Baltimore may finish with more homicides than New York, even though Baltimore’s population is around 650,000, whereas more than 8.5 million call the Big Apple their home.

To explain what’s going on, the Times turned to our good friend Frank Zimring, whose book, The City That Became Safe, attempted to explain the decline through a combination of more effective, data-driven policing focused on specific high-crime ‘spots’ rather than the more generalized ‘quality of life’ policing tactics such as looking for ‘broken windows’ or stop-and-frisk. But Zimring’s book only went through 2010, and homicides have dropped nearly 50% since that time. What’s driving the decline now? It’s “utterly mysterious” says Zimring, who is hardly alone in not being able to figure it out.

With all due respect to the criminologists and social scientists who have looked at New York’s crime stats again and again, I’m going to throw out a little theory based on an element of the urban landscape in New York and other places which appears to be overlooked. It’s a phenomenon I call ‘re-urbanization;’ i.e., the reclaiming of distressed, inner-city neighborhoods not through ‘urban renewal’ plans, but on a block-by-block basis by newly-arrived residents who move into cheap, marginal housing which they renovate, upgrade and slowly but surely create a stable environment where middle-class families can work and live. Know why New York is a ‘sanctuary city?’ Because it’s those new immigrants, those documented and undocumented ‘aliens’ whose presence brings many distressed neighborhoods back from the dead.

Several years ago I took a ride in Brooklyn all the way down Atlantic Avenue from the Brooklyn Academy of Music to the border of Queens, a trip which took me through parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville and East New York.  When I was growing up in New York in the late 1950’s, these three neighborhoods comprised the worst part of the Brooklyn ghetto; going from the corner of Sutter and Rockaway Avenues to Times Square was like going from the Earth to the Moon.

The four police precincts covering these neighborhoods – 73rd, 75th, 79th, 81st – patrol a combined population of 246,050 which in 2000 racked up 289 homicides; last year the homicide total was 54.  These same four precincts made 458 arrests for illegal weapons in 2000; the 2016 number more than doubled to 979. Want to reduce gun violence? Get rid of the guns.

What really struck me as I drove and walked through these neighborhoods, however, was the extent to which I could see again and again the degree to which new pockets of residential housing and commercial enterprise were springing up all over the place.  Take a look at this apartment complex on Gates Avenue in Bed-Stuy.  The tab to live in what the developers call ‘historic’ Bedford-Stuyvesant begins at $2,500 bucks a month. Check out a rehabbed building at 1365 Fulton Street; no vacancies at the moment but if one comes up the monthly for a one-bedroom will only run you two grand.

People moving into those apartments don’t expect to be robbed or shot. And they won’t be because for all kinds of reasons as an urban environment becomes more prosperous, it also becomes crime-free. Want to reduce gun violence? Try upgrading a neighborhood where gun violence occurs.

 

 

 

Does Concealed-Carry Reduce Crime?

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Today’s media will be carrying the story about NRA Board member and NASCAR team owner Dick Childress, who evidently frightened away three dopes who broke into his home by firing a gun at them, an event which Childress claims resulted in no loss of life to himself or his wife thanks to “the 2nd Amendment and God.” No doubt this story will be repeated when the Senate takes up a debate on the national concealed-carry reciprocity bill, with Childress becoming a poster-boy for the idea that we should all be going around armed.

If there is one cottage industry which has emerged and grown within the gun violence prevention (GVP) research community, it’s the continued effort to debunk the work of John Lott, whose book – More Guns Less Crime – has been the clarion-call for the concealed-carry (CCW) movement since it was first published in 1998. The book first appeared when the residents of nearly half the states still had to prove a need to walk around with a gun. As of today, only 8 states still give the authorities who issue CCW some discretion as to who shall and shall not be able to walk around armed; the rest of the country couldn’t care less.

Lott’s argument is based on statistical models which show that as the number of concealed-carry licenses increase in most jurisdictions, criminal activity shifts from in-person to anonymous crime; i.e., a decline in homicides but an increase in burglaries, his argument based on the assumption that criminals don’t want to confront potential crime victims who might be armed.

Lott’s thesis has been attacked by any number of GVP researchers, of whom perhaps the most prominent and prolific scholar is a law professor at Stanford, John Donohue, who has published two, very detailed critiques of Lott’s work.  The first paper was published in 2012, and basically argued that Lott’s argument was based on data which was, at best, incomplete. The second paper was released this year, and went further because it claimed that by using a more sophisticated modeling approach, the data actually showed that in CCW states that violent crime went up. Lott has replied in detail to both these critiques, so the battle wages on.

I recently began a study of murder from a forensic point of view, hence, I took the trouble to read Lott and Donohue again and find myself unable to subscribe to either point of view. The reason I am unpersuaded has nothing to do with the validity of statistical models employed in either approaches; rather, it is based on the assumptions that both Lott and Donohue make about the behavior of criminals versus the behavior of armed citizens, assumptions which I believe in both cases to be totally wrong.

Let’s go back to the three jerks who broke into the home where Dick Childress and his wife were asleep. Obviously, they didn’t do their homework in preparation for the attack because not only were the residents in their home, but the homeowner was certainly armed. I mean, a member of the NRA Board wouldn’t have been able to pull out a gun?

But let’s presume for the sake of argument that the burglary team’s collective IQ wasn’t below the standard of ‘dumb.’ The point is that anonymous crimes, crimes of stealth, usually involve some degree of thought and planning before the crime occurs.  On the other hand, what emerges from the brilliant, 1,000-page textbook on forensic homicide by Lester Adelson is the proven argument that of all crimes, murder is the one crime which is preceded by any planning or conscious thought at all.

Then there’s the question of the degree to which the population which commits the most violent crime – murder – has any degree of contact with the population that believes they need to protect themselves by walking around armed. Because if these two population groups don’t come into contact with one another, making some kind of causal connection between how the two groups behave regarding any issue is about as far away from reality as you can get.

Violent crime, particularly murder, is overwhelmingly an intra-racial affair. Blacks kill blacks, whites kill whites; for both races the intra-racial character is around 90 percent. And just as murder is segregated by race, it’s also segregated by income and where people live. Warren Buffet lives in Omaha, the only murder in Buffet’s neighborhood in the last couple of years was an elderly lady, living alone, who met some dope on the internet and then invited him to move in. He repaid her for her generosity and kindness by bopping her over the head and running off with her jewels. Meanwhile, a mile away from Buffet’s house is a small ghetto surrounding a ballfield and some swing sets known as Giffords Park. The neighborhood has about 5,000 residents but chalks up 8 or 9 shootings each year, the reason that most of the victims survive is because the park is located a block away from the Creighton University Medical Center and ER.

If we are really going to do something about the behavior caused by guns which will probably result in more than 12,000 murders this year, I think it’s time to stop indulging in arguments about statistics and statistical models and start paying attention to how, when and where these murders actually occur. And by the way, don’t make the mistake of assuming that the number of individuals who have concealed-carry licenses represents in any way, shape or form, how many Americans are walking around with guns.  Let me break it to you gently – in neighborhoods, both white and black, where most murders occur, everybody’s got a gun.

Have A Wonderful and Joyous Christmas Season.  

 

In States Which Like Gun Violence, They Also Like Trump.

The map below appeared on the Gallup website at the end of July when Trump’s national job ratings were about where they are right now; i.e., pretty damn bad. But the point of this map was to demonstrate that the Whiner-in-Chief still had significant support in most of the really red states. The darker the state, the higher Trump’s support.

Map 1

            And this map, when all is said and done, isn’t terribly different from how the electoral map played out on November 8, 2016, because even in the ‘swing’ states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan whose shift from blue to red put Trump out in front, his support is still much greater than in the blue corridors on each coast. In other words, as long as the popular vote doesn’t determine who sits in the Oval office, right now (I hate to say it) looking towards 2020, the bully with the world’s most expensive head rug isn’t in such bad shape.

But now I’m going to throw another national map at you and notice that the shadings in this one aren’t all that different from what we see in the map of Trump’s state-by-state support. Again, the darker the state, the higher gun-violence rate.

 

 

Map 2

With a few exceptions, it appears to be the case that the states where Trump is most popular are also the states which have the highest rate of deaths from guns. And while a majority of these deaths are suicides, no matter what Gun-nut Nation tells you, using a gun to commit suicide isn’t just like jumping out a window or falling off a bridge.  Because the fact is that there is no other method you can use to end your own life which is as effective and efficient as using a gun.  And when it comes to calling suicide a form of gun violence, I’m sorry but I’ll rely on the definition of violence adopted by the World Health Organization: “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death….” Get it?  Oneself?

The national gun-violence rate is currently 10.6 per 100,000. With the exception of two states – South Dakota and Nebraska – every other pro-Trump state has a rate of gun homicide/suicide rate (GV) higher than the national average, and in most instances, significantly higher. Alaska leads the entire country with a GV rate of 19.6.  Right behind Alaska is Louisiana (19.1), Alabama (17.8), Wyoming (17.5) and Montana (16.9).  Two of these states have elevated rates because of suicide (WY,MT), the other two states make the top ten list because residents of those states evidently enjoy shooting guns not so much at themselves, but at others.

If we examine gun-violence rates in states where Trump’s numbers are the worst (less than 40% approval rating and compare his polls in those states to gun-violence rates we discover exactly the reverse. Thus, with the exception of New Mexico, where the gun-violence rate is 15.6, there is not one other anti-Trump state with a gun-violence rate above 11 per 100,000, which is just about the national gun-death average, and 10 of those 17 states have a per-100,000 single-digit rate, beginning with Hawaii’s 2.7, followed by Massachusetts at 3.2.

Looking at these numbers forces me to say that Trump’s continued outbursts invoking, justifying and supporting violence of all sorts isn’t just a symptom of some kind of mental derangement but may reflect his awareness of where his political strength really lies. Because if nothing else, the maps above force us to conclude or at least suggest that residents of pro-Trump states have no great concerns about the most violent form of behavior within their own communities; namely, the violence caused by guns. And if that’s true, you can bet that Trump will take pains to make sure that nothing is done to reduce gun violence in places which believe he will make America great again.

Jeff Sessions May Believe That Longer Sentences Curb Gun Violence But He’s Wrong.

The moment that the 45th President nominated Jeff Sessions to be the People’s Lawyer, everyone on both sides of the gun debate began to shout out. The NRA posted television ads saying that “our nation’s chief law enforcement officer will work tirelessly to defend our rights while protecting us from violent criminals.”  As to the former, Sessions was an outspoken champion of the 2005 PLCAA federal law immunizing gun makers from tort suits; regarding the latter, he is known to be ‘tough on crime,’ in particular violent crimes caused by a gun.

sessions             Sessions is one of a number of public officials who has been fervently impressed by a gun-control initiative in Richmond, VA known as Project Exile, which mandated lengthy federal prison time for anyone convicted of a gun crime in a city whose gun violence rates in the early 1990s ranked it as one of the most violent urban centers in the entire United States. In 1997, when the program first began, Richmond experienced 140 homicides, or an annual rate of 73!  In 1998 homicides dropped by 36%, and continued to dwindle down over the next few years.

The good news is that by 2005, homicides in Richmond dropped to 84, then to 76 in 2006 and to 31 in 2008.  From 1997 until 2010, more than 1,300 people were convicted of gun crimes and received prison sentences which totaled more than 8,000 years, for an average prison stay of more than 6 years per crime.  No wonder Tough Guy Trump has praised Project Exile, but in all fairness the program was strongly supported by a Richmond City Councillor named Tim Kaine.  The program was also supported by folks in the GVP community, including the Brady Campaign, then known as Handgun Control, Inc.

There were also some dissenting voices, most notably from various Gun-nut groups like saveourguns.com, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership and, of course, Larry Pratt.  And lost in the rhetoric were complaints from federal judges who heard these cases and claimed they were an ‘overreach’ of federal authority, along with the charge that the program was inherently racist and led to over-incarceration of black defendants who always end up as the chief victims of any over-zealous response to crime.

Like most special law-enforcement initiatives that cost extra dough, Project Exile petered out in the mid-2000s after funding was cut by Congressional Republicans in 2003.  But meanwhile, homicides in Richmond remained well below levels recorded before Project Exile went into effect in 1997-98.  That is to say, until this past year.  In 2016, the final murder number may end up at 60, the highest since 2007, and this would bring the annual murder rate back up to 30, which puts the former capital of the Confederacy back in the high end of gun-violence cities big time.

Nobody really knows for sure how come gun killings in Richmond have suddenly spiked last year, just as nobody really knows how come they dropped so significantly twenty years ago.

Back in 2002 several noted public policy and gun researchers, Steve Raphael and Jens Ludwig, published an assessment of Project Exile for Brookings, and decided that the “reduction in Richmond’s gun homicide rates surrounding the implementation of Project Exile was not unusual and that almost all of the observed decrease probably would have occurred even in the absence of the program.”  Why did Raphael and Ludwig come to this conclusion? Because the same drop in violent crime occurred at roughly the same time in many cities which didn’t have any special anti-violence programs running at all.

Trying to figure out why America experienced a 50% decline in violent crime from the mid-90s until the mid-years of the following decade has become an academic cottage industry, without any real consensus as to the cause. Senator Sessions may believe that getting ‘tough’ is an effective to what has now become a new upwards spike in gun violence, but it won’t work until and unless we figure out why sometimes violent crime goes up and other times goes down.  The solution hasn’t yet been found.

Is Gun Violence A Medical Event? Not If You Agree With The NRA.

I’m not exactly sure why The Washington Post would run a big story today on the government’s continued failure to fund gun research through the CDC, considering that when it comes to health matters the new Congress has much more important things to do like getting rid of the ACA. Nevertheless, the story does make the point that gun violence is the least-researched of all major causes of death, and had it received research funding commensurate with the number of gun deaths each year, the total research dollars that might have been spent over the last decade would be $1.4 billion or more.

urban              The Post’s story is hardly the first time that the funding deficit for gun research has been mentioned and it won’t be the last. This story was prompted by a brief JAMA article in which two researchers calculated a predictive figure for gun violence research (the $1.4 billion quoted above) and compared it to research funding for other leading causes of mortality and, no surprise, the gun violence funding lagged far behind.

The number of gun deaths and the whole notion of gun violence has been attacked by Gun-nut Nation in two different ways.  First they argue that the number is wholly out of wack because two-thirds of gun mortality consists of suicides and this behavior is prompted by mental illness, it has nothing to do with guns at all.  Let’s end that one right now: the World Health Organization defines ‘violence’ as an attempt to injure yourself or someone else.  Get it? If you don’t get it, you can stop reading right now.

The other argument that gun-nut Nation uses to disparage the idea that gun violence should be studied as a medical problem is the claim that over the last several decades, coincident with the same time-period during which the Dickey Amendment prohibited gun research, in fact mortality from guns has been going down.  The total number of gun deaths today, including suicides, is roughly half what it was in 1994.  So why spend taxpayer money on researching something which seems to be solving itself?

The fact is (there’s that messy word again) that total gun deaths are about half of what they were twenty years ago, except that 95% of that decrease occurred between 1994 and 1999.  Since 2000 the annual number of gun deaths has stayed more or less the same, and if current numbers can be trusted, gun deaths have started climbing again.  Will the numbers climb back up to levels recorded in the mid-90’s?  God only hopes not, but to say that gun violence continues to go down is simply a big, fat lie.

But there’s one more aspect of gun violence which the authors of the JAMA article didn’t take into account, and they didn’t deal with it because they are physicians which means that every injury is a medical event that must be treated as a risk to health. Except that at least one-third of all fatal gun injuries, and this holds true for no other type of injury that causes death, also happen to be criminal events. And it is the criminal nature of more than 11,000 gun homicides and 65,000+ gun assaults each year which helps Gun-nut Nation support the idea that gun violence shouldn’t be the subject of medical research at all.

Because, so the theory goes, if someone picks up a gun and intends to use it to harm someone else, then that someone has made a conscious decision to commit a criminal act. And we don’t need no stinkin’ research to figure out what to do with all those gang-bangers in the ‘hood.  Just lock ‘em up, throw away the key and that’s the end of that.

Now for those of us who understand that crime is a complicated, multifactorial  phenomenon that can’t simply be reduced to a quick and easy solution, that’s fine.  But a lot of people out there would disagree.  And many of those folks own guns and support the NRA.

What’s The Difference Between The Victims And Perpetrators Of Gun Violence? Not Much.

If you hang around the GVP community, you quickly memorize certain numbers: 30,000, which is the number of people killed each year by guns, although the real number is a couple of thousand more; 65,000, which is the number of people who are injured when someone else shoots them with a gun but they survive; 15,000, which is the number (give or take another thousand) who injure themselves each year with a gun; 2,000, which covers the ones who kill themselves or are shot dead by the police. Put it all together and you come up with roughly 115,000 Americans who are the victims of gun violence each and every year.

conference program picI actually think the annual number of gun violence victims is somewhere above 200,000, because as far as I am concerned, the people who aim the gun at someone other than themselves and pull the trigger are victims of gun violence too. We never think of the shooters as victims because, by definition, all of them used their gun to commit at least one crime, namely, aggravated assault or homicide with a gun.  And in our fractured world, if every crime has a victim, there also has to be a perpetrator, hence by definition, the shooter can’t also be a victim.  But in fact, he is.

Why do I say that?  First of all, most gun assaults are committed by people, usually young men, for whom violence, and particularly gun violence, is part and parcel of their daily lives.  Want to know who comes into the ER most frequently with a gun injury?  Someone who was previously arrested on suspicion of using a gun.  Okay. I know, I know, the cops usually arrest the first ‘bad guy’ they find. But if you don’t think that the average street shooter isn’t going after someone who previously went after him, then you don’t know much about the streets or the shootings that take place in the streets.  And when the victim of a shooting happens to be a female, the shooter is almost always some jerk of a boyfriend or husband who has previously belted her around numerous times, and maybe on occasion she defended herself by belting back.

Now we know just about everything there is to know about the victims who get shot with guns.  We know their age, their race, where they live, what they were doing when the gun went off, between the CDC and the FBI there isn’t much that escapes the eye.  And when we come to the shooters, even though many of them don’t get arrested, enough sooner or later wind up in detention so that we can get a pretty good idea about their demographics as well.

But here’s what we don’t know.  We have absolutely no idea why someone picks up a gun, points it at someone else and – boom! – it goes off.  And it doesn’t work to say that so-and-so used a gun because he came from a violent background or had a violent history, because most of the young men with that profile who want to commit a violent act do so without using a gun.  According to the Department of Justice, less than 7% of all serious criminal events involve the use of guns.  So how and why do the other 93% figure out how to commit violence without using a gun?

Those 7% who express anger and violence with a gun may not be victims of gun violence in a legal sense, but in terms of the impact of violence on their lives they are GVP victims just as well.  Because as Konrad Lorenz points out, anger and aggression can and should be used as tools to advance the social good. But those who cannot differentiate between the positive and negative uses of aggression will sooner or later end up alienated and marginalized by the community as a whole. And most will live shorter and more painful lives.

Does A Gun Protect You From Crime? A New Study Says You Should Just Run Away.

If there is one issue more than any other which divides the two sides in the great gun argument, it’s whether guns are an effective deterrent against crime.  The controversy has been raging since advocacy for and against gun ownership escalated during the debate over the 1994 Brady bill and again when Clinton pushed through his omnibus bill on crime.  Basically the argument came down to what I call the social utility of gun ownership; i.e., do the risks of guns outweigh the benefits or is it the other way around?

The latest entry in this field is a study that analyzes more than 14,000 ‘personal contact’ crimes between 2007 and 2011, meaning that the victim and the perpetrator had some degree of contact during the crime incident itself.  The good news about this study is that it covers a very large number of criminal incidents; the bad news is that like all studies based on data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, it is based solely on the testimonies of the victims themselves. Which means that the information cannot be corroborated by another source, but at least the respondent is asked to provide a great deal of specific information about what actually took place.

gun crimes                The researchers, David Hemenway and Sara Solnick, have utilized the NCVS data to create what they call an ‘epidemiology’ of gun use, with the intention of trying to figure out the degree to which people used guns to protect themselves from crimes.  This issue of frequency has been the hot-button question in the gun argument over the past twenty years, spurred largely by Gary Kleck’s 1994 defensive gun use (DGU) study which claimed that Americans used guns to thwart crimes upwards of several million times each year. Kleck’s study was based on complete interviews with less than 125 respondents, none of whom were asked to define or describe the alleged criminal event which a gun helped them to forestall.  There was also no attempt to compare the outcome of using a gun to prevent a crime as opposed to other methods that individuals might use to make themselves safe from criminal attack.

This new study, on the other hand, seeks to address the gaps in Kleck’s work and the work of others, and the results, not surprisingly, cast the value of defensive gun use in a very different light. To begin, the number of times that people use guns as opposed to other ways of defending themselves is very slight; less than 1% of the 14,000 respondents used a gun against their attacker, whereas more than 40% defended themselves or their property in some other way. Men were three times more likely to use a gun to defend themselves, they were also more likely than women to get involved in DGUs away from the home, and men used guns more for defense against assaults while women favored using guns to protect their property from being damaged or taken away.

The important finding from the study, it seems to me, is not the relatively low frequency of DGUs as opposed to other self-defense methods, but the degree to which using a gun as a defense against crime reduces the chance of injury to the victim.  Slightly more than 4% of the victims were injured during the criminal incident, the percentage of injuries suffered by victims who used other ways to defend themselves was the same.  The bottom line is that a gun will protect you from crime, but it won’t protect you better than yelling for help, threatening to call police, or just running away.

On the other hand, what public health and other gun-safety advocates need to understand is that even if the data doesn’t support the idea, statistically speaking, that guns can protect us against crime, the fact is that many people believe that a gun is the most effective antidote to their fear of crime, and it’s often what we believe rather than what we know that determines the choices we make.