Gun Protection–Best-Case Scenario

So you’ve read my latest post on Almost Diamonds, on how poorly a gun protects you in the home, and you’ve said to yourself, “Self, those numbers are pretty far apart, but hell, that’s just robbery.” And you’re right.

Now, there are some reasons I looked at robbery, including the one stated at the top of the post. Protecting the family from home invasion really is a classic, fear-and-testosterone-fueled fantasy scenario for gun nuts. The home is also where the most people have the most access to their guns. It makes some sense.

However, it is not the whole picture. So, using the same sources, and turning the assumptions all the way up in guns’ favor, here’s the best-case scenario for the protective power of guns in the U.S. in 2006.

  • Violent crimes attempted (reported and unreported) = 3,808,000
  • Percent of attempted violent crimes resisted with weapons = 2.0%
  • Percent of weapons assumed to be firearms = 100%
  • Assumed efficacy rate of resistance = 100%
  • Violent crimes successfully resisted with firearms = 76,000
  • Firearms deaths = 31,000
  • Firearms suicides that would succeed by other methods = 4,000
  • Remaining firearms deaths = 27,000
  • Best-case protective ratio = 76,000 / 27,000 = 2.05

So, yes, by assuming all weapons used to resist violent crime are guns and that all instances of resistance are successful, we can achieve a scenario in which the violent crimes prevented greatly outweigh firearm-specific deaths. However, we’re still comparing crimes to deaths. If we take this back to injuries (28% of violent crimes), we have a ratio of 21,000 / 27,000.

Even in a best-case scenario, guns are responsible for more deaths than they prevent injuries.

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25 Responses to “Gun Protection–Best-Case Scenario”

  1. June 22nd, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Which, of course means nothing if your metric is the assumption that bad people are scared out of your neighborhood because you’all have lots of guns. The number of home invasions thusly prevented is in the zillions!

  2. June 22nd, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Of course, you could have simply noted that I already address the relative crime rate arguments in the comments on the Almost Diamonds post.

  3. June 22nd, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Tony Sidaway says:

    Fuck this pansy “death and serious injuries” crap, you panty-waisters! What we really need to know is the number of American kids who grow up to be fags because their parents didn’t keep guns in the home just like Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. He said “Blessed are the Peacemakers”, an obvious reference to the Colt 45 which was popular in Galilee at the time, despite Herod’s abortive attempts to round them all up.

  4. June 22nd, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Kirth Gersen says:

    This is an excellent case for general gun control where few guns are already present. In places already flooded with weapons, however, an individual non-owner accepts the highest level of risk, with the lowest level of protection, so we end up with a classic “tragedy of the commons” situation (it’s better for everyone if no guns are allowed, but if not, it’s seemingly in each person’s best individual interest to have one, even though that leads to a worse overall situation).

  5. June 22nd, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Kirth, that is a weak post hoc argument.

  6. June 22nd, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    len says:

    Well, the one stat you failed to mention is that states with concealed carry rights have lower overall violent crime rates. (Ponder that for a moment.)
    But then why would you reveal that FACT to anyone that happens upon your silly blog when it would undermine your simplistic biased view that gun=bad?

  7. June 22nd, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Rystefn says:

    So, couldn’t we adjust the other side, too? I mean, if we’re talking about best-case, assuming all interventions are successful and such, couldn’t we just as easily assume a best-case scenario wherein we eliminate death and injury by accidental discharge? That would have a pretty huge impact on the ratio here, wouldn’t it?

  8. June 22nd, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Rystefn, that’s a good question, but no, it’s not a big impact. Taking out the 1,000 accidental deaths still leaves a uneven balance, and we’re talking about a balance between any kind of injury and death. Part of the reason I maximized the helpfulness of the guns is that it illustrates how much more benefit would be required to hit even a break-even point. Even if you take out all the gun homicides (13,000) under the theory that they’d all happen with other weapons (I think you have enough experience to know that isn’t entirely true, but going with best-case), we’re looking at fewer than two injuries prevented for every additional gun death.

    len, with that “mouth,” I understand why you think you need a gun. However, there are plenty of stats I didn’t mention, even in the sources I cite. Care to share the source of your stats?

  9. June 22nd, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Rystefn says:

    Oh… I missed something here… Sorry about that. I failed to grasp that you’re talking about guns making up for suicides by preventing crimes. To put it bluntly, that’s an asinine comparison from the get-go. Unstated Major Premise (suicide is always bad) and all that. I’d say that if the leading cause of firearms deaths is intentional self-inflicted wounds, things are going pretty well for the “guns aren’t so bad” side of the discussion.

    If you take out accidents and homicides, then there is no valid argument against guns and/or gun ownership that I can even imagine.

  10. June 22nd, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    Heather says:

    Great! Love that argument!

    Uh, so just how do you take out accidents and homicides?

  11. June 22nd, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Rystefn, there is nothing asinine about examining the claim that we need guns to “make us safer.” If you don’t like it, go away before I ban you. You’ve got your own blog to pontificate all you like.

    Heather, the CDC tracks deaths by firearm along with a number of other types of data. The ruling of homicide/suicide/accident is one piece of that data.

  12. June 22nd, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Mike Haubrich says:

    At the risk of oversimplifying things, Rystefin, a gun in the house isn’t going to make someone commit suicide. It just makes the attempt more likely to succeed. And homicides are also a lot easier if the perp doesn’t have to get too close to the victim.

    One of the things that really gets me about gun nuts thinking that they can go all Ralphie on the bad guys during a home invasion is that they don’t realize that if a burglar is in your house and startles you awake in the the night, then the burglar’s eyes will have adjusted to the dim light while your eyes are still trying to dilate. You, who may have had a perfect score at the range will be a target after the burglar has grabbed your gun. I would rather have a pepper spray, which has a wide dispersal so that I don’t have to be so accurate and can disable said home invader.

    Also, if my kid wanders in after curfew, if I spray him with spray rather than shoot him then he will be pissed at me, but not dead.

  13. June 22nd, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Len: But then why would you reveal that FACT to anyone that happens upon your silly blog when it would undermine your simplistic biased view that gun=bad?

    No, actually, the simplistic biased view is yours. We have discussed gun ownership on this blog, Almost Diamonds, and Greg Laden’s blog, as a running conversation, for many many months, and it has never been simplistic.

    Of course, the occasional on dimensional gun nut such as your self does come along, with your NRA playbook (talk about simplistic) and RUINZ IT FOR EVERYBODY!!!

    Get a brain, moran.

  14. June 22nd, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Rystifyn: Oh… I missed something here… Sorry about that. I failed to grasp that you’re talking about guns making up for suicides by preventing crimes. To put it bluntly, that’s an asinine comparison from the get-go. Unstated Major Premise (suicide is always bad) and all that. I’d say that if the leading cause of firearms deaths is intentional self-inflicted wounds, things are going pretty well for the “guns aren’t so bad” side of the discussion.

    You are, in fact, one of the most demented people I’ve ever come across on the internet, but do you have any idea how abysmally wrong, stupid, and twisted what you are saying here is?

    On behalf of each and every individual in my life that was close to suicide but did not succeed (or in the end, in some cases, actually attempt) because luck, reason, clarity, or in some cases, a person (and, in some cases, that was me) intervened, I hereby whack you up side the head virtually.

    I suppose if someone was you (and apparently, and unfortunately, you are you), then that person might actually live a life and not ever know anyone who would confide to you that they almost died at their own hand, or came to you when they felt that need. Or do you simply write people off when they become depressed?

    You are a piece of work. And by work, I mean shit.

    Mike: Exactly.

  15. June 23rd, 2010 at 5:12 am

    Heather says:

    Steph, I wasn’t asking about how we separate statistics. I meant how do we actually get rid of those events so there’s nothing left about guns to worry about? If Rystefn can argue that without them there’s no problem, I just want to know how he plans to eliminate those problems, supposing for just one fanciful moment that he had something in mind that might bring his argument out of lala land.

    I know, I ask for too much sometimes.

  16. June 23rd, 2010 at 7:07 am

    Oedipus Maximus says:

    The following is a true story which happened to a friend of a friend of mine.

    A father had bought a gun to protect his home and family. He kept the gun in a nightstand by his bed.

    Late one night as he was getting ready for bed, the father heard someone sneaking in through the back door. He had known his wife and kids were asleep, and becoming alarmed he went for the nightstand drawer.

    Then he hears screaming, “Daddy! It’s me! It’s me! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” hysterically over and over, with dreadful crying. His 11-year-old daughter was the one at the back door. She knew about the gun in the nightstand and had heard him fumbling with the drawer. She was inconsolable.

    For some reason–whatever silliness 11-year-olds get into–she had sneaked out to the backyard and was trying to sneak back in.

    The father got rid of the gun.

  17. June 23rd, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Sarah says:

    I had a coworker once, who owned a nice, legal handgun. One day, after he and his wife (another coworker) had been having some problems, he ran into her at a gas station. They got into an argument, and she drove away. He followed her, they got into a high-speed chase, then he began shooting at her vehicle with that nice, legal handgun. She ran off the road, hit a tree, and her car caught on fire. She and her passenger both died – I never found out if they died from gunshot wounds, or if it was the accident and/or the fire. I honestly didn’t want to know.

    Her husband stopped his vehicle, got out, walked over to her burning car, and shot himself in the head. With that nice, legal handgun. Three people – two I considered friends – died because that man hit a limit, lost his mind, and happened to have a gun on him.

    Also, recently my alma mater had a case where a professor walked in and shot up a biology department meeting.

    My opinion on gun ownership is, you usually can’t tell who the crazy ones are until AFTER they’ve killed a few people.

  18. June 23rd, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    It occurs to me that virtually every hand gun I’ve ever seen up close (the majority, not all) have been either in the process of an illegal sale, just done being involved in a crime, about the be used in a crime, or in the process of being used in a crime.

    Thus, myattitude about hand gun.

    (This does not count hand guns in holsters, obviously. You seen them all the time attached to cops,etc. I mean the kind that are being waved around and such.)

  19. June 23rd, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Kirth Gersen says:

    “Kirth, that is a weak post hoc argument.”

    OK, my argument was:
    1. People in places that already have lots of guns are at the highest risk of gun violence. Is this in dispute?
    2. People in those places without a gun of their own do not have the small mitigation cited earlier. That mitigation is smaller than the total risk, which is why point (1) is correct, no matter what the individual’s possession status.
    3. Therefore, in places already flooded with guns, each individual — assuming the community is already acting independently of that individual — is slightly better off with a gun, even though the community as a whole is worse off.

    That’s your idea of a weak argument? It concedes that fewer guns lead to safer communities, but also explains why individuals can so strongly want to make sure they have one personally, despite knowing that each gun makes the community as a whole a bit less safe.

    If you’d like to show me how this is incorrect, please do; I’m evidently too dense to see it. Notice that I’m in no way claiming that “everyone should have a gun.” Indeed, my argument, if understood, is for people to resist the temptation. Or is your stance that any explanation for individual ownership other than insanity is automatically false?

  20. June 23rd, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Kirth Gersen says:

    Actually, I can state that better:

    What I presented was not an “argument,” weak or otherwise, but rather a “hypthesis that accounts for some otherwise seemingly sane people having firearms.” It’s descriptive, not prescriptive, if you will.

  21. June 23rd, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Keith Harwood says:

    A gun cannot protect you against some else with a gun. It cannot deflect bullets. The only way you can use a gun to protect yourself with any certainty is to shoot first. I do not want to live in a society where the only way to protect myself and my family is to shoot first. Fortunately, I don’t.

    I can, with great difficulty, understand how someone might want to live in such a society. What I can’t understand is how the people of such a society, or even a society that considered this behaviour worth discussing, could call themselves civilised.

  22. June 24th, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Sevesteen says:

    my views, without being interested enough in winning to search for citations.

    We were originally supposed to defend the country with a militia rather than a standing army, theory being a militia is less dangerous to the citizens, (and less likely to be stuck in Iraq for decades). This in turn means that the citizens should have enough arms to at least make establishing tyranny difficult. If we are disarmed below a certain level, tyranny becomes easier to accomplish, and therefore more likely to be attempted. This justifies accepting a certain amount of gun violence.

    Criminal misuse of guns (Criminal as occupation, not former good guy who snapped) depends on the number of criminals with access to guns, the likelihood of encountering an armed defender, and the perceived likelihood of getting shot. One gun in criminal hands is more damaging than one gun in legit hands counteracts.

    A legit gun is generally positive, with a very slight negative based largely on how likely the gun is to fall into criminal hands. A gun carried by a responsible CCW holder or policeman and locked when not directly supervised is the most beneficial to society, while adding a 10th gun to the back of a closet is among the least. Most of the benefit is deterrence rather than riding to the rescue-but when a successful defense does occur that deters some additional number of future crimes by other criminals.

    Many murders are criminal on criminal. I don’t count those as being “as bad” as the death of a non-criminal.

    The idea that someone who swallows a handful of Tylenol is equally motivated as someone who attempts suicide with a gun is unreasonable, as is the idea that a very motivated person will not succeed more often than a Tylenol attempter if only guns were not available to him.

    We cannot reduce the number of criminals having access to guns below a certain level–With minimal care guns last for decades or centuries, and until we legalize drugs there will be accessible smuggling lanes that can make up for captured or lost guns.

  23. June 24th, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Ben Zvan says:

    Mike: I think that if you’re asleep your eyes are probably dilated already. I can usually see okay (aside from far-sightedness) when I wake up in the middle of the night. That’s just my admittedly anecdotal experience.

    Len: The Lott and Mustard study indicated a marginal decrease in violent crimes and a marginal increase in property crimes in states with shall-issue legislation. Black and Nagin’s re-analysis of Lott and Mustard’s data found that the data did not support the original findings. Black and Nagin also found that crime rates tended to be at cyclical high-points immediately prior to the enactment of shall-issue legislation, giving a false impression that crime rates dropped after the legislation was passed when they were already on their way down, and then back up in a couple years. Ludwig’s independent study of murder rates between 1982 and 1991 shows no link between shall-issue legislation and murder rates. Cleary, Jim. The Effects of “Shall-Issue” Concealed-Carry Licensing Laws: A Literature Review

    In my own analysis of violent crime rates in Minnesota between 1996 and 2008, I found no change in these rates due to the passing of shall-issue legislation in 2003. There is a slight dip in 2004, but it is not out of line with the prior downward trend and it is followed by a sharp rise in 2005. Minnesota Unified Crime Reports

    Full disclosure: I have been issued a permit to carry by Hennepin County, MN.

  24. June 26th, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Deen says:

    Keith Gersen said:

    2. People in those places without a gun of their own do not have the small mitigation cited earlier. That mitigation is smaller than the total risk, which is why point (1) is correct, no matter what the individual’s possession status.

    You’re missing one important point though. The risk doesn’t just come from the guns owned by strangers around you, it also comes from the guns in your own house.

  25. June 29th, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Kirth Gersen says:

    @ Deen, your point accounts for part of the reason (but not the entire reason of course) that the mitigating effect is relatively small overall. Most rational people will concede that even with firearm safety measures (training and locks), that risk can be reduced but is still non-zero. Indeed, for someone like Hunter Thompson (RIP) that risk was in fact larger than the overall mitigation. But as long as the number of successfully prevented home invasions is greater than the number of fatalities inflicted by domestic firearms, there will be people who place their personal sense of empowerment ahead of the overall welfare of the community. Again, I’m not necessarily saying those people should do that, only that there is a reason why they would do so.

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