Jun 292013

Some months ago, in a fit of  “something must be done,” President Obama fired off a bunch of Executive Orders that were supposed to have some impact on firearms crimes. one of those orders directed the Centers for Disease Control to study firearms crimes, and how that impact public health. The National Academy of Sciences has just put out their report:

Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence

Where we learn:

Defensive uses of guns by crime victims is a common occurrence,
although the exact number remains disputed (Cook and Ludwig, 1996;
Kleck, 2001a). Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive
gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by
criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to
more than 3 million per year (Kleck, 2001a), in the context of about
300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008 (BJS, 2010). On the
other hand, some scholars point to radically lower estimate of only
108,000 annual defensive uses based on the National Crime Victimization
Survey (Cook et al., 1997). The variation in these numbers remains a controversy in the field. The estimate of 3 million defensive uses per
year is based on an extrapolation from a small number of responses taken
from more than 19 national surveys. The former estimate of 108,000 is
difficult to interpret because respondents were not asked specifically
about defensive gun use.
A different issue is whether defensive uses of guns, however numerous
or rare they may be, are effective in preventing injury to the gunwielding
crime victim. Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual
defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was “used” by the
crime victim in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have
found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims
compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies (Kleck,
1988; Kleck and DeLone, 1993; Southwick, 2000; Tark and Kleck,

 None of this is particularly new news to those who have been paying attention. Political hacks working to disarm the citizenry repeatedly trot out the line that a gun in the home is more likely to be used to kill a family member than to kill an intruder; but this of course ignores the fact that a gun can deter a violent intruder or other criminal *without* actually killing him. A “defensive use” of a gun might be to blow the back of a rapists skull off, but it might just as easily be the simple pointing of a gun at said rapist, or racking the slide of a shotgun. These actions will quite often cause your average criminal to decide to cease current operations and go somewhere else.

What *is* news is that this is an official response to a White House directive. One can hope (but little more than hope) that some reporter with actual integrity and courage will use this report to demand a response from Obama.


 Posted by at 1:01 pm
  • Jordan

    Scott, I have a question for you: Why does gun control work in other countries (Britain, Japan) and not here? Other countries with strict gun control laws have a lot lower gun death rates as compared to us in the US.

    I’ve really never been convinced that gun control would be effective or really has been effective, except maybe for making sure mentally ill and unstable individuals don’t get guns. Also, gun education would help these matters, too, something this country lacks severely.

    I would have done Executive orders mandating gun education which in the long run would be more effective.

    • Anonymous

      > Why does gun control work in other countries (Britain, Japan) and not here?

      Depends what you mean by “work.” Sure, our bulk homicide rate may be higher than Britain or Japan… but you time average things, those countries have experienced a *lot* more violent death than the US.

      > Other countries with strict gun control laws have a lot lower gun death rates as compared to us in the US.

      Like Mexico?

      Anyway, the question isn’t “why are there more gun deaths in the US than in Britain,” but “why is there more murder in the US than Britain?” It’s politically incorrect as all get-out, but the fact is that murder in the US is very dependent upon local variations in cultural and ethnic groupings. So the question *then* becomes “why is Group A busily slaughtering each other, when Group B, which has access to all the same weapons, murders itself at the same low rate as Europeans without weapons?”

      • One of the main reasons for the homicide-rate discrepancies between the U. S.and the UK is how the two countries score ’em — in the U.S., if a cop thinks it’s homicide, it gets into the stats as a homicide, even if they never find the perp; in the UK, it;’s only homicide if someone is found guilty of it. If you dig around on the web, you can find some corrected rates…and it turns out you are still a little less likely to wake up killed to death (ans the French say) in the UK than in the U.S., but not all that much. –When it comes to violent crime, last time I checked, we were neck-and-neck.

        What’s with the focus on “gun death,” Jordan? Are people really that much less dead when they have been beaten to death with blunt objects? (And here’s a quirk: survival rates are better for gunshots than blunt-force trauma!)

        • B-Sabre

          That’s an interesting wrinkle to the UK stats, Roberta.

          And you’re right – why are gun deaths considered so much worse than somebody getting clubbed to death with a tire iron?

          • Anonymous

            I think because there is politics wrapped aroudn guns, not tire irons. When you get right down to it, those pushing gun control are pushing *gun* control, not violence control… and ultimately, *people* control by way of disarming the citizens while leaving the government’s ability to use violence intact. The cops (from the guy on the beat, up to DEA and IRS agents) aren’t going to trade in their AR’s for tire irons, even if the people were suddenly disarmed.

      • Scott, there’s pretty good correlation between violence and poverty. 🙁

        • Anonymous

          Poverty has been on the way up for some years, IIRC, due to the economy tanking. What has happened to the violent crime rate?

    • Brianna Aubin

      Figuring out whether gun control “works” and whether it lowers crime is a lot more complex than simply comparing murder and crime rates across countries. For example, if you look at the crime rates for Japanese Americans, you’ll see rates comparable to those in Japan. Ditto if you look at the crime rates of white Americans and compare them to western European crime rates. Culture matters: some cultures are better at suppressing crime than others. In Japan, a kid finding a lost penny and turning it in to the police is actually very important in much the same way that kids running lemonade stands here in America is important. Here we celebrate entrepreneurship (or we did), so generally when you see a kid running a lemonade stand, you buy it even if the lemonade is crap, to encourage the kid. Japan actively encourages law-and-order attitudes in the same way; naturally their crime rates are lower.

      Also, you need to look at not just the current crime rates, but also their rates across time. For example, if you look at the history of British crime rates over time, you’ll see a) that Britain had lower crime rates than the US even when they had little gun control, b) that the US’s crime rates, including murder rates, have been going down for decades even though our gun control has been getting even looser, and c) that Britain’s crime rates have been rising, to the point where for every type of violent crime but (the admittedly important crime of murder), Britain now is worse than the United States.

    • Rick

      I would like to see if gun control is as effective now in Britain as it was. Remember that they do have an island nation so their borders are a bit more secure-their immigration really works to keep out the “undesireables”. Japan is borderline xenophobic. So where you have a monoculture, there’s not a lot of friction and disagreement. Also a bit more respect for the powers that be and the law, and their neighbors. Here, we court the freaks, geeks and ne’er do wells. We have approx. 11 million illegals whose first action is disrespective of sovereignity and the rule of law. Our culture celebrates a bizzarro world straight out of the Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil: All the cops are criminals, and all the sinners, saints. We also seem to completely court the decisions of the irresponsible and inexperienced while ignoring those who’ve gained some wisdom in life. Add in the constant state of dissatisfaction created by Madison Avenue and something’s gonna break badly.

      Britain is probably catching up with us in these things and the numbers will show it soon. Japan, still too rigid for this to be a big problem yet. I suspect China is worse overall but their controlled Media and ours unwilling to paint any non-Western system as problematic keeps us from knowing what really happens there.

    • publiusr

      Well it probably helps that they are island nations. Then too, in the same way we can’t even keep drugs out of prisons, every once and awhile a lost round of a guard’s ammunition finds its way inside a zip gun. So nothing is perfect.
      In general, less terrain allows for better coverage.

  • B-Sabre

    Any facts that do not support the theory must be discarded, hidden, denied and ignored.

  • Rick

    better archive this stuff before it disappears down the memory hole.