Gun crimes grab most media attention, while gun use in self-defense gets merely a fraction: experts

on Feb20
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Americans across the country have used legal guns to defend themselves and thwart crimes, but the reports often fly under the radar and most people are unaware how often guns are used in self-defense cases. 

“Having a gun is by far the safest course of action when people are facing a criminal by themselves,” Dr. John Lott, an economist and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, told Fox News Digital. He pointed to women in particular, who “behave passively” and are “about 2.4 times more likely to end up being seriously injured than a woman who has a gun to protect herself.”

As crimes skyrocketed in major cities since 2020, instances of women using guns to protect themselves and stop crimes have repeatedly played out.  

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“Thank God I had my gun, or I’d probably be dead right now,” a Chicago woman with a concealed carry permit said in October after two would-be carjackers approached her outside a bank. 

“Thank God I had my gun, or I’d probably be dead right now.”

— Chicago crime victim

In New Orleans just last week, a mom and Air Force veteran pulled a gun on a man who tried to get into her car while she was sitting in gridlocked traffic with her 2-year-old son. She wasn’t forced to fire the weapon and the suspect took off. 

‘Dramatic undercount’

Lott said that, in a typical year, the media reports about 2,000 defensive gun use stories, but he added “that is a dramatic undercount, because the vast majority of successful self-defense cases don’t make the news.”

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Lott said there are about 2 million defensive gun uses per year, according to the average of 18 national surveys. 

The Heritage Foundation, which launched a database tracking how often guns are used in self-defense cases, cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which looked at various studies and found “that Americans use their firearms defensively between 500,000 and 3 million times each year.”

“The reality is, I think this number shocks a lot of people,” Amy Swearer, a legal fellow in the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News Digital in a phone interview. 

A Texas concealed carry permit holder diffused a situation where a man was wielding a machete at the driver who fatally struck his girlfriend Thursday. 

A Texas concealed carry permit holder diffused a situation where a man was wielding a machete at the driver who fatally struck his girlfriend Thursday. 
(iStock)

Swearer noted that even “two outlier studies” that found fewer instances of guns being used in self-defense, they still reported guns being used “tens of thousands times every year.”

Lott said that people using guns in self-defense overwhelmingly don’t even lead to a criminal being killed or wounded. 

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“Ninety-five percent of defensive gun uses involve merely brandishing a gun, and less than 1% involve the attacker being killed or wounded. But most news stories only report on cases where attackers are killed and brandishings are ignored. It is understandable that someone getting killed is more newsworthy than a woman brandishing a gun and the criminal running away without committing a crime, but from a policy perspective we care about both cases,” he said. 

“Most news stories only report on cases where attackers are killed and brandishings are ignored.”

— Dr. John Lott, Crime Prevention Research Center

Homicide rates broke records in at least 16 major cities last year, while parts of California were plagued by smash-and-grab robberies, and cities such as Philadelphia and Chicago saw staggering spikes in carjackings. 

AT LEAST 16 CITIES SEE RECORD HOMICIDES IN 2021

With the spike in crimes came fears from city residents that they needed to protect themselves. 

In Beverly Hills, California, for example, a gun store owner told Fox News Digital earlier this year that sales recently spiked for him as residents look for a last-ditch effort for protection even though the city has a long record of supporting liberal policies and gun control. 

Concealed permit surge

It’s a trend that has washed across the nation since 2020. The number of concealed handgun permits surged to 21.52 million in 2020, a 48% increase since 2016 and a 10.5% increase from the same time last year, according to a study conducted by the Crime Prevention Research Center released in October. 

Lott said that last year, “women made up 28.3% of permit holders in the 14 states that provide data by gender.” While permitted concealed carry among Black Americans grew 135.7% faster than their White counterparts. 

“The people who benefit the most from owning guns are also the ones who are the most likely victims of violent crime — poor Blacks who live in high crime urban areas,” according to Lott. 

“The people who benefit the most from owning guns are also the ones who are the most likely victims of violent crime — poor Blacks who live in high crime urban areas.”

— Dr. John Lott, Crime Prevention Research Center

Political activist Maj Toure has made similar comments, saying in 2020 that he believes “more Black people would be alive if they were armed.”

“So when I hear ‘unarmed Black man,’ I’m sad,” he told Business Insider Weekly, “because there should be no such thing.”

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But activists, researchers and Democratic leaders argue that with more guns comes more crime. 

Maj Toure of Black Guns Matter is seen in Los Angeles, Dec. 1, 2016. (Getty Images)

Maj Toure of Black Guns Matter is seen in Los Angeles, Dec. 1, 2016. (Getty Images)

Researchers from Boston University examined all 50 states between 1981 and 2010 and found a “robust correlation” between gun ownership and gun homicides.

“This research is the strongest to date to document that states with higher levels of gun ownership have disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides,” Boston University professor of community health sciences Michael Siegel said of the research back in 2013. 

Meanwhile, gun control groups such as the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence argue that “permissive concealed carry permitting laws are linked to 8.6% higher firearm homicide rate, and 13-15% higher violent crime rates compared to ‘May Issue’ states.” 

‘Enough is enough’

President Biden met with New York City Mayor Eric Adams earlier this month and rolled out a plan to stop the flow of guns in the city, bolster law enforcement and increase funding for community policing. A part of the plan also included the Justice Department issuing directives to every U.S. attorney’s office nationwide to “increase resources dedicated to district-specific violent crime strategies.”

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“Every day in this country, 316 people are shot, 106 are killed.  And six NYPD officers have been victims of gun violence so far, just this year — the same in the town north of me, Philadelphia; and my much smaller town of Wilmington, Delaware; and Washington, D.C.,” Biden said in New York on Feb. 3.  

“It’s enough. Enough is enough,” he continued. 

President Biden met with New York City Mayor Eric Adams earlier this month and rolled out a plan to stop the flow of guns in the city, bolster law enforcement and increase funding for community policing. 

President Biden met with New York City Mayor Eric Adams earlier this month and rolled out a plan to stop the flow of guns in the city, bolster law enforcement and increase funding for community policing. 
(Getty Images)

To Lott, what most people miss amid the emphasis on gun crimes is that “over 92% of violent crime has nothing to do with guns.” 

“The data shows that while violent crime reported to police rose 5% between 2019 and 2020, you can’t blame that increase on guns because gun crimes actually fell by 27%,” he said. 

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“The bottom line is that if you want to reduce gun crime, you do the same things that you do to reduce violent crime generally, and that is make it riskier for criminals to commit crime.” 

Fox News’ Andrew Mark Miller and Brooke Singman contributed to this report. 



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