Monday, February 24, 2014

Guns and Saved Lives: On the Net-Benefit of Gun Ownership

According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “In 2010, guns took the lives of 31,076 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings.  This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day…”

However, FSU professor of criminology, Gary Kleck, argues that guns are used 2.5 million times a year in self-defense.  Now, some argue that this number is inflated because of the problem of false positives.  Even so, if we were to take, say, only 5% of that figure, then the use of guns in self-defense would still quadruple the rate of gun deaths.

In other words, guns do save lives.  However, the many lives that are saved due to guns go largely unreported (except for cases where the perpetrator is killed in self-defense), not necessarily because of some anti-gun bias in the supposedly “liberal” media, but simply because a death is more newsworthy than a saved life.

As for the much smaller death frequency of gun accidents, Kleck notes that:

“Gun accidents are generally committed by unusually reckless people with records of heavy drinking, repeated involvement in automobile crashes, many traffic citations, and prior arrests for assault. . . . Consequently, it is doubtful whether, for the average gun owner, the risk of a gun accident could counterbalance the benefits of keeping a gun in the home for protection--the risk of an accident is quite low overall, and is virtually nonexistent for most gun owners.”

Many of us don’t fit that profile.  Denying one's right to own guns is like denying another's right to consume alcohol on the grounds that there are people with a tendency to abuse alcohol, bringing harm to themselves and others (never mind those who use alcohol responsibly).