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Letter at Length, Jan. 20

Reporting distorts gun picture

Chris Honoré begins (Jan. 16, page A17) by saying he does “not understand the place guns have in the life of our nation.” Then, having admitted ignorance, he launches illogically into an “explanation” on the basis of fantasy scenarios rather than doing any research.

Characteristically, the media routinely reports gun crimes, but rarely reports Defensive Gun Incidents (DGIs). This badly distorts the picture of firearm use in the United STates.

Data from the National Crime Victimization Study (NCVS) suggest about 80,000 DGIs per year in the United States — approximately 10 times the number of gun deaths annually, a substantial proportion of which are suicides. However, the NCVS survey is conducted by the Department of Justice and is not anonymous, effectively warning respondents that they risk prosecution if they admit using or in some states even to having a gun, so it almost certainly underestimates the actual number of DGIs.

Thirteen other national surveys of DGIs conducted by academic researchers, pro- and anti-gun organizations, news companies and commercial polling firms yield estimates varying from 700,000 to 2.5 million successful DGIs annually! This compares with between 800,000 and 900,000 crimes each year in which the perpetrator had or claimed to have a gun. Two or more attackers were involved in 53 percent of DGIs; 46 percent of the defenders were women. Seventy-four percent of attackers were strangers and 63 percent of the incidents took place outside the home.

In the largest study of crime ever conducted in America, John Lott examined data on gun ownership, crime, arrests, and convictions separately for each of the U.S.’s 3,045 counties for 18 years. He found that state-imposed waiting periods and criminal background checks had no impact on violent crime rates. Non-discretionary carry permits (available in 32 states when he did the study) reduced the number of gun crimes attempted, and for the ones that were attempted, 98 percent of the time merely brandishing a gun stopped the attack.

High-crime urban areas experience the greatest improvements. Women benefit more than men and the improvement is not limited to those with weapons.

Armed citizens ended attempted mass shootings at an Anniston, Ala., Shoney’s Restaurant, at a Pearl, Miss., high school, at an Edinboro, Pa., middle school, at Colorado Springs New Life Church, at a Clackamas, Ore., shopping mall and a San Antonio movie theater, to mention some specific cases. These data are consistent with a separate study that concluded that assault, murder, rape and robbery are much lower in areas of the U.S. where it is relatively easy to obtain concealed carry permits.

Perhaps we should be giving more attention to fatal drug overdoses, which 10 years ago were about the same as gun deaths (about 5 per 100,000) and now are triple that. I wonder what the figures are for each in Ashland? Maybe the latter also deserve a quilt.

David Churchman