“But,” he said and stopped.
We were at my kitchen table, and Bob was having a hard time reconciling what I was telling him with what he thought he knew. He grew up in rural Pennsylvania. He even went hunting once. But he’d left that behind in his youth. He went away to college and then moved permanently to New York. He doesn’t think much about politics and doesn’t read much. He gets most of his news from Facebook, Saturday Night Live and comedian Trevor Noah.
“Well, if that’s true,” he said, but, again, he paused.
I waited. Bob is an old friend and a big-hearted fellow. Like so many, his natural condition is pro-freedom, but he has been superficially digesting one-sided arguments for decades.
“A study from Georgetown?” Bob asked.
“Yup. I’ll send you a link.” It only took a moment to find and to text the study from my phone.
He clicked on the study and read the short abstract.
“So, you say, a million don’t even fire a shot?” he asked.
“Every year, but it’s more than a million.”
I cheated and used an online percentage calculator to determine what 81.9% of 1.67 million is. “It’s 1,367,730,” I read off my phone. “That’s how many times gun owners use their firearms in defensive situations each year without firing a shot, according to the 2021 National Firearms Survey, which, as it says here, was conducted under the supervision of Georgetown professor William English.”
“Is this study an outlier?”
“No,” I said, “other studies have estimated different numbers, but 1.67 million defensive gun uses per year is hardly a surprising statistic to those who review such surveys. This one, in fact, contacted over 50,000 people and interviewed over 16,000 gun owners.”
“Yeah, I see that,” said Bob. “So, right, I get what you’re saying; it's hard to even imagine how many lives are saved each year by armed citizens.”
“And how many rapes are prevented. And assaults stopped, and, well, you get the idea,” I said.
“Yeah, I get it. Single mothers. The elderly. Vulnerable people living in disadvantaged neighborhoods. All of them need protection from criminals who are likely to be young men. Police-response times aren’t instantaneous,” he said as he thought this out.
“Often over 10 minutes,” I said.
“The data on gun sales is just as intriguing,” I said. “More women and minorities than ever are buying guns—mostly semi-automatic handguns—and most say they are buying guns for self-defense.”
“What? Oh, right,” he said as he reread the abstract. Five minutes before, he was sure I was trying to deceive him, but now he was on new ground. “So, this survey found that about a third of gun owners have used a firearm to ‘defend themselves or their property, often on more than one occasion.’ And it found that ‘handguns are the most-common firearm employed for self-defense,’ and, as you said, gun owners mostly don’t even have to fire a shot.”
“Yup, and most are buying and using semi-automatic guns—pistols or rifles.”
All right,” he said, “I’m with you on this one. I get now why you say the authorities need to go after criminals, not law-abiding citizens who own guns.”