President Obama requested a report earlier this year from the Center for Disease Control to study the data on gun violence in America. When he read the report, he realized he had been wrong about many facts, apologized to the American people, and dropped the issue of gun control. Just kidding! He ignored the report because it did not support his vision of how guns relate to violence in America. You won’t hear him or any gun control advocates touting this study, but here’s a couple highlights. Slate.com has a summary.
7. Guns are used for self-defense often and effectively. “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 … in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008,” says the report. The three million figure is probably high, “based on an extrapolation from a small number of responses taken from more than 19 national surveys.” But a much lower estimate of 108,000 also seems fishy, “because respondents were not asked specifically about defensive gun use.” Furthermore, “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.”
So the whole thing about “even if we can save just one life”… well it might be worth it to look at net lives saved. It appears from the study that allowing easy ownership of guns for law abiding citizens saves more lives then banning them. This shouldn’t be a surprise since some of the places with the strictest gun laws also have the highest gun crime rates, like Chicago and D.C. The study also found that today, compared to 1999, more people cite protection as a reason for owning a gun. The study also found that despite the expiration of the assault weapons ban in 2004, and despite increased gun ownership, gun crime is still falling.
2. Most indices of crime and gun violence are getting better, not worse. “Overall crime rates have declined in the past decade, and violent crimes, including homicides specifically, have declined in the past 5 years,” the report notes. “Between 2005 and 2010, the percentage of firearm-related violent victimizations remained generally stable.” Meanwhile, “firearm-related death rates for youth ages 15 to 19 declined from 1994 to 2009.” Accidents are down, too: “Unintentional firearm-related deaths have steadily declined during the past century. The number of unintentional deaths due to firearm-related incidents accounted for less than 1 percent of all unintentional fatalities in 2010.”
The study also found that that suicide accounts for the majority of gun deaths.
6. Gun suicide is a bigger killer than gun homicide. From 2000 to 2010, “firearm-related suicides significantly outnumbered homicides for all age groups, annually accounting for 61 percent of the more than 335,600 people who died from firearm-related violence in the United States,” says the report. Firearm sales are often a warning: Two studies found that “a small but significant fraction of gun suicides are committed within days to weeks after the purchase of a handgun, and both also indicate that gun purchasers have an elevated risk of suicide for many years after the purchase of the gun.”
Most of this could be that suicidal people see guns as the easiest way to end their own life. I highly doubt that owning a gun makes people want to kill themselves, rather suicidal people most likely buy a gun, and at some point or another decide to use it. This would explain why “gun purchasers have an elevated risk of suicide for many years after the purchase of a gun”. It is not so much that anyone who buys a gun is then more likely to kill themselves, but that people who are likely to kill themselves are also likely to buy a gun.
I think this was a good study to come out, because many people do not realize how often lives are saved through defense with firearms. Disarming victims will not reduce the number of violent crimes, and it will certainly make some people victims who would otherwise have been able to defend themselves.