While the mainstream media frequently bends the facts to promote their propaganda, it’s clear that firearms are used many times each day in America to save lives.
So how many times a day do firearms in the hands of good guys and gals save lives? Though the data suggests this happens a lot more than the media will report, it is a difficult thing to measure. Part of the reason is crimes that are avoided often go unreported. Also, no law-enforcement agency tracks the positive uses of firearms or attempts to calculate the number of lives saved. Part of the reason for this is that it’s difficult to calculate what might have happened. Another is that police departments are tasked with solving crimes, not with doing research on what actually prevents crimes.
Many law-enforcement agencies do, of course, track the use of firearms in crimes, as these are much more measurable statistics. The FBI, for example, provides numbers on crimes and firearms. Mostly, it has data on background checks—on those who have purchased or attempted to buy a firearm. The report also covers statistics on homicides and murders.
“The gun homicide rate in 2010 was the lowest it had been since CDC began publishing data in 1981.”
The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 “Statistical Abstract” report, however (Section 5, Table 315, “Criminal Victimization Rates: 1995 to 2009”), is an average of attempted crimes. In 1995, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, attempted or threatened crimes averaged about 7.06 million. By 2009, the number had dropped significantly to 2.96 million. In the same “Statistical Abstract” table, under “Assault,” there is a subcategory covering “Threatened with Weapon.” These numbers also declined significantly; in 1995, 1.52 million were threatened with a weapon, but in 2009 only 510,00 people were, according to this data.
These crime declines are the opposite of another dramatically rising number: background checks for firearms transfers. Background-check numbers held steady in the mid-7-million range annually from the late-1990s, but then jumped significantly to 9.9 million in 2008 and on up to 10.76 million in 2009. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has raw data with slightly higher numbers. It begins at approximately 8.5 million transfer checks in 2000 and ends with more than 14 million requests in 2009. These numbers signal a sharp rise in the number of firearms being purchased.
These rising gun sales, meanwhile, coincide with a sharp decline in crime. To put this plainly, as gun sales rose significantly, crimes and attacks declined.
Another report by the Washington, D.C., based Pew Research Center, “Gun Homicide Rate Down 49% Since 1993 Peak; Public Unaware,” confirms that as firearms sales have increased, crime rates have gone down. This report notes: “The gun homicide rate in 2010 was the lowest it had been since CDC began publishing data in 1981.” (The CDC is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal agency that has conducted studies that support and advocate for restrictive gun laws.)
That informative Pew Research Center report also provides information on mass shootings. Deaths from mass murders are a very small percentage of firearm homicides. According to a Congressional Research Service report, 78 public mass murders occurred in the U.S. from 1983 through 2012, claiming 547 lives and injuring 476 people. (This was the most recent year the numbers were tabulated.) This is far less than numbers reported by most of the media.
Another Pew Research Center 2017 report on reasons why people chose to own a firearm found that 67% of firearms owners say protection is a major reason for owning a firearm. In a 14-year span, the emphasis for owning a firearm in America had shifted from hunting to self-protection. The report also notes that 75% of gun owners say having a gun in the home makes them feel safer. Another PEW report notes that 42% of U.S. households have firearms in them.
How Often Do Good Guys Save Lives?
Good guys with guns do save lives. An often-cited study was done in 1995 by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. It was titled, “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun.” It found that guns are used for self-defense in America about 2.1 to 2.5 million times per year. In contrast, in 1997, David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center, determined that Americans use guns defensively about 55,000–80,000 times per year.
Those numbers are wildly different, but like many such studies, they used different methods to measure self-defense gun use. But then, even if the lowest number here (55,000) is the most-accurate, this would mean that Americans use guns to defend themselves at more than four times the homicide rate (there were 13,252 homicides in the U.S. in 1997, according to FBI data). This begs the question: How many more murders would there be if more law-abiding Americans were prevented from defending themselves?
American gun owners also clearly aren’t shooting first and asking questions later, as many in the mainstream media claim. According to the FBI, there were 299 “justifiable homicides” with a firearm in the U.S. in 2017. Whichever number regarding self-defense is the most accurate, justifiable homicides are clearly a very small portion of self-defense gun uses by legal gun owners in America.
Some media members have looked into this; for example, in an April 2019 article, “How Many Lives Are Saved by Guns—and Why Don’t Gun Controllers Care?” at
CapitalismMagazine.com, Larry Elder writes: “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.”
But, given the mainstream media apathy for this topic, you’d think the fact that good guys with guns save lives is a new concept. It’s not. Twenty years ago, John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, and his research partner wrote: “We find that allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes and it appears to produce no increase in accidental deaths. If those states which did not have right-to-carry concealed gun provisions had adopted them in 1992, approximately 1,570 murders; 4,177 rapes; and over 60,000 aggravated assaults would have been avoided yearly.”
The Media Ignores So Many Good Guys With Guns
Even when good guys with guns save lives—many lives—the mainstream media focuses almost exclusively on the criminals. They seem to purposely ignore the good guy or gal who saved lives.
The mainstream media quickly ignored parts of the story, for example, after a murderer killed 26 worshippers in November 2017 at a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church. A neighbor (a good guy with a gun) heard the shots and screams. That neighbor, former NRA firearms instructor Stephen Willeford, grabbed a rifle, ran to the scene, confronted the attacker and shot him several times. The murderer, who was hit in the upper torso, dropped his rifle and began shooting back at Willeford with a pistol. The now seriously injured attacker then fled the church, jumped into his vehicle and sped away from the scene. Willeford and another citizen gave chase, but soon found the attacker had wrecked his vehicle and was dead.
Numerous outlets reported this attack, but unsurprisingly, many of those focused on the attack, the firearms and the victims, but never—or only passingly—mentioned how a good guy with a gun stopped a bad guy with a gun. A CNN online report, for example, had 30-plus, highly detailed paragraphs about the attack, the killer and the firearms, but in only one buried sentence gave some scant details on the action by Willeford that stopped the attack. This is typical mainstream-media reporting of guns used by citizens to save lives.
Uses of firearms to save lives, however, does garner the attention of law enforcement.
A couple in Sharon, Pa., for example, received awards from the local Fraternal Order of Police for stopping an attack in a public park near their home. The couple was home when they heard screams, so they retrieved two pistols and went to investigate. They discovered several young men who had been stabbed and were now being beaten with baseball bats by a group of attackers. When the attackers saw the good guys (well, one lady and one man) coming to the aid with firearms, they stopped their assault and fled the scene.
Actually, it’s well-documented that average citizens with firearms frequently save lives—sometimes they even save police officers. The pages of NRA publications report these heroic deeds monthly in our “The Armed Citizen” column.
Spread the word: Good guys with guns do save lives many times each day.