The Left tells us that the ‘good guy with a gun’ is a myth. The right says it isn’t. The CDC has a study they’ve been sitting on for decades. Does that have anything to do with why we know just about everything there is to know about the story about the school where 17 were shot dead (Marjory Douglas), but most Americans couldn’t name the town where that Texas Church that was shot up without asking Google?
In Sutherland Springs (did you still remember?) there were 26 fatalities, men, women and children. Besides the dead, 20 were injured. But even though that event had greater casualties than the high school, with victims every bit as ‘innocent’ and ‘unsuspecting’ we don’t talk about that one much, do we? Was it because it didn’t generate any useful activists? Or could it have something to do with the fact that the bad guy was brought down by a good guy with a gun?
It was a former NRA instructor wielding an AR-15 no less? He might have acted even sooner, but he had to retrieve it from his gun safe, first. (Being the responsible firearm owner that he was.)
That’s exactly the story we never hear splashed all over national news. The only time an AR-15 is ever really mentioned is when it is held by a villain — despite the fact that most murders involve a handgun, not a rifle. Rifles are further down the list of ‘murder weapons’ than hammers, bats, fists or feet.
So, is there any truth to the ‘good guy with a gun’ argument for gun ownership?
The CDC actually conducted a massive study on the defensive use of firearms decades ago, and for some reason, they never publicized the findings.
The study has resurfaced.
Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck conducted the most thorough previously known survey data on the question in the 1990s. His study, which has been harshly disputed in pro-gun-control quarters, indicated that there were more than 2.2 million such defensive uses of guns (DGUs) in America a year.
Now Kleck has unearthed some lost CDC survey data on the question. The CDC essentially confirmed Kleck’s results. But Kleck didn’t know about that until now, because the CDC never reported what it found. [ephasis added]
Kleck’s new paper—”What Do CDC’s Surveys Say About the Frequency of Defensive Gun Uses?”**—finds that the agency had asked about DGUs in its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 1996, 1997, and 1998.
Those polls, Kleck writes,
are high-quality telephone surveys of enormous probability samples of U.S. adults, asking about a wide range of health-related topics. Those that addressed DGU asked more people about this topic than any other surveys conducted before or since. For example, the 1996 survey asked the DGU question of 5,484 people. The next-largest number questioned about DGU was 4,977 by Kleck and Gertz (1995), and sample sizes were much smaller in all the rest of surveys on the topic (Kleck 2001).
Kleck was impressed with how well the survey worded its question: “During the last 12 months, have you confronted another person with a firearm, even if you did not fire it, to protect yourself, your property, or someone else?” Respondents were told to leave out incidents from occupations, like policing, where using firearms is part of the job. Kleck is impressed with how the question excludes animals but includes DGUs outside the home as well as within it.
Kleck is less impressed with the fact that the question was only asked of people who admitted to owning guns in their home earlier in the survey, and that they asked no follow-up questions regarding the specific nature of the DGU incident.
What’s the whittled down finding of the study?
Setting aside any professional use of a firearm (for example, law enforcement) those who have used a gun (whether fired or not) to protect themselves, their property, or another person have outnumbered those who have used a weapon in the commission of an offense by a wide margin.
The final adjusted prevalence of 1.24% therefore implies that in an average year during 1996–1998, 2.46 million U.S. adults used a gun for self-defense. This estimate, based on an enormous sample of 12,870 cases (unweighted) in a nationally representative sample, strongly confirms the 2.5 million past-12-months estimate obtained Kleck and Gertz (1995)….CDC’s results, then, imply that guns were used defensively by victims about 3.6 times as often as they were used offensively by criminals.
Kleck points out this only means that about 1 percent of guns in the U.S. are thus used annually. In Armed, Kleck discusses a number of later surveys on DGUs, including one from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1994, that at least roughly back up his original estimates. He sums up that “there are now at least nineteen professional surveys, seventeen of them national in scope, that indicate huge numbers of defensive gun uses in the U.S.”
Maybe that so-called ‘myth’ of the good guy with a gun isn’t such a myth after all.
For those who wonder exactly how purely scientific CDC researchers are likely to be about issues of gun violence that implicate policy, Kleck notes that “CDC never reported the results of those surveys, does not report on their website any estimates of DGU frequency, and does not even acknowledge that they ever asked about the topic in any of their surveys.”
Well, if you don’t like those findings, we could always run the study again.