From Brian Doherty at Reason, You Know Less Than You Think About Guns
This is an excellent analysis of the sociology of the gun problem in America, and should be read in its entirety. It is a bit long, but it is worthy with no wasted words.
In the October 2015 special issue on “gun violence prevention,” Preventive Medicine featured the latest and most thorough attempt to treat the NCVS as the gold standard for measuring defensive gun usage. The study, by Harvard’s Hemenway and Sara J. Solnick of the University of Vermont, broke down the characteristics of the small number of DGUs recorded by the NCVS from 2007 to 2011. The authors found, among other things, that “Of the 127 incidents in which victims used a gun in self-defense, they were injured after they used a gun in 4.1% of the incidents. Running away and calling the police were associated with a reduced likelihood of injury after taking action; self-defense gun use was not.” That sounds not so great, but Hemenway went on to explain that “attacking or threatening the perpetrator with a gun had no significant effect on the likelihood of the victim being injured after taking self-protective action,” since slightly more people who tried non-firearm means of defending themselves were injured. Thus, for those who place value on self-defense and resistance over running, the use of a weapon doesn’t seem too bad comparatively; Hemenway found that 55.9 percent of victims who took any kind of protective action lost property, but only 38.5 percent of people who used a gun in self-defense did.
Kleck thinks the National Crime Victimization Survey disagrees so much with his own survey because NCVS researchers aren’t looking for DGUs, or even asking about them in so many words. The survey merely asks those who said “yes” to having been a crime victim whether they “did or tried to do” something about it. (You might not consider yourself a “victim” of a crime you have successfully prevented.) Kleck surmises that people might be reluctant to admit to possibly criminal action on their own part (especially since the vast majority of crime victimizations occurred outside the home, where the legality of gun possession might be questionable) to a government surveyor after they’ve given their name and address. And as he argued in a Politico article in February 2015, experienced surveyors in criminology are sure that “survey respondents underreport (1) crime victimization experiences, (2) gun ownership and (3) their own illegal behavior.”