There Are Far More Defensive Gun Uses Than Murders. Here's Why You Rarely Hear of Them.

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While Americans know that guns take many innocent lives every year, many don't know that firearms also save them. On May 15, an attacker at an apartment complex in Fort Smith, Ark.,...
While Americans know that guns take many innocent lives every year, many don't know that firearms also save them.

On May 15, an attacker at an apartment complex in Fort Smith, Ark., fatally shot a woman and then fired 93 rounds at other people before a man killed him with a bolt-action rifle. Police said he "likely saved a number of lives in the process."

On June 30, a 12-year-old Louisiana boy used a hunting rifle to stop an armed burglar who was threatening his mother's life during a home invasion.

On July 4, a Chicago gunman shot into a crowd of people, killing one and wounding two others before a concealed handgun permit holder shot and wounded the attacker. Police praised him for stepping in.

According to academic estimates, defensive gun uses — including when guns are simply shown to deter a crime — are four to five times more common than gun crimes.

These are just a few of the nearly 1,000 instances reported by the media so far this year in which gun owners have stopped mass shootings and other murderous acts, saving countless lives. And crime experts say such high-profile cases represent only a small fraction of the instances in which guns are used defensively. But the data are unclear, for a number of reasons, and this has political ramifications because it seems to undercut the claims of gun rights advocates that they need to possess firearms for personal protection -- an issue now before the Supreme Court.

Americans who look only at the daily headlines would be surprised to learn that, according to academic estimates, defensive gun uses — including instances when guns are simply shown to deter a crime — are four to five times more common than gun crimes, and far more frequent than the roughly 20,000 murders or fewer each year, with or without a gun. But even when they prevent mass public shootings, defensive uses rarely get national news coverage. Those living in major news markets such as New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles are…
John R. Lott Jr.
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