Report: Frequency of Firearm Violence Prevention Greatly Underestimated

Report: Frequency of Firearm Violence Prevention Greatly Underestimated

We all know that claim innocent lives every year, but a new report from RealClearInvestigations chronicles how gun owners use firearms far more often to save lives than widely believed.

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 fewer than 20,000 murders 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 unlikely to hear of such stories.

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As of Aug. 10, America’s five largest newspapers — the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal — have published a combined total of 10 news stories this year reporting a civilian using a gun to successfully stop a crime, according to a search of the Nexis database of news stories. By contrast, those same newspapers had a total of 1,743 news stories containing the keywords “murder” or “murdered” or “murders” and “gunfire,” “shot,” or “shots.” Including articles with the word “wounded,” the total rises to 2,764.

“Nobody who has done their homework on defensive gun use could possibly believe reading news articles accurately captures anything but an infinitesimal share of defensive gun uses,” Tomislav Kovandzic, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas, told RealClearInvestigations. “The only way to measure defensive gun uses is with surveys. While there is no such thing as a perfect measure of anything, the fact that they consistently show large numbers of defensive gun uses can’t be ignored.”

The U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey indicates that around 100,000 defensive gun uses occur each year — an estimate that, though it may seem like a lot, is actually much lower than 17 other surveys. They find between 760,000 defensive handgun uses and 3.6 million defensive uses of any type of gun per year, with an average of about 2 million.

Defensive gun usage doesn’t get the media attention it deserves probably because of the lack of violence. As the adage goes, if it bleeds, it leads—but this data paints a different picture worthy of everyone’s attention.

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