How Frequently Do People Defend Themselves With Guns - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

About 48 percent of gun owners say that they own guns for self-protection, but how often do they actually use them for that purpose?

A Harvard University analysis shows that people defended themselves with a gun in just 0.9 percent of crimes between 2007 and 2011, and David Hemenway, who led the research, says that the risks outweigh the benefits if you own one simply for self-defense.

“The average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense,” says Hemenway. “But every day, they have a chance to use the gun inappropriately.”

The study flies in the face of research promoted by organizations such as the NRA, including the well-known Kleck-Gertz estimate. Published in 1995, that analysis – conducted by criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz – says that there are between 2.2 and 2.5 million incidents in which guns are used for self-defense each year.

Researchers criticize the findings, saying that the respondents in the Kleck-Gertz estimate are nowhere to be found; the number of people killed or treated for gunshots in that time frame is less than half those Kleck and Gertz say exist. Why wouldn’t those who were injured in a self-defense incident visit the emergency room?

“The researchers who look at [Kleck’s study] say this is just bad science,” says Hemenway. He says that if people don’t visit the hospital for a gunshot wound, they’ll end up “with sepsis or other major problems.” That means the numbers of people who were treated for gunshot wounds in that time frame should be higher – but within the confines of the Kleck-Gertz estimate, they just don’t add up.

What Do You Think?

Do the risks of owning a gun for self-defense outweigh the benefits? Which are you more inclined to believe – the Harvard analysis or the Kleck-Gertz estimate? I’d love to hear your take on gun ownership as it pertains to self-defense, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter!

Carlos Gamino