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Federal Data Shows Guns Are Rarely Used for Self-Defense


August 9, 2015
The Violence Policy Center & Christopher Ingraham / The Washington Post

The five states with the highest per capita gun death rates in 2011 were Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, Wyoming, and Montana. Each of these states has extremely lax gun violence prevention laws as well as a higher rate of gun ownership. The state with the lowest gun death rate in the nation was Rhode Island, followed by Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. Each of these states has strong gun violence prevention laws and has a lower rate of gun ownership.

http://www.vpc.org/press/1506self.htm

Federal Data Shows Guns Are Rarely Used
To Kill Criminals or Stop Crimes;

13 states reported no justifiable firearm homicides in 2012

Violence Policy Center

WASHINGTON, DC (July 23, 2015) -- Private citizens rarely use guns to kill criminals or stop crimes, a new study from the Violence Policy Center (VPC) finds.

The study, Firearm Justifiable Homicides and Non-Fatal Self-Defense Gun Use, shows that private citizens are far more likely to use guns to harm others or themselves than to use them to kill in self-defense.

The study finds that in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, there were only 259 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm and that 13 states reported zero justifiable firearm homicides that year. That same year, there were 8,342 criminal firearm homicides.

Comparing these numbers, in 2012 for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 32 criminal homicides. And this ratio does not even take into account the tens of thousands of lives needlessly lost in gun suicides and unintentional shootings that year.

"The NRA has staked its entire agenda on the claim that guns are necessary for self-defense, but this gun industry propaganda has no basis in fact," states VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann. "Guns are far more likely to be used in a homicide than in a justifiable homicide by a private citizen. In fact, a gun is far more likely to be stolen than used in self-defense."

In addition, only a tiny fraction of the intended victims of violent crime or property crime employ guns for self-defense. Over a five-year period, less than one percent of victims of attempted or completed violent crimes used a firearm, and only a tenth of one percent of victims of attempted or completed property crimes used a firearm.

The study analyzes data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program's Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) and cites survey data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).

"We hope legislators in every state will stop believing the self-defense myth and look at the facts," says Julia Wyman, executive director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence. "Guns do not make our families or communities safer."

The study's findings include:
* In 2012, there were only 259 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm. That same year, there were 8,342 criminal firearm homicides.

* In 2012, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a firearm, guns were used in 32 criminal homicides. This ratio does not include the tens of thousands of lives taken in suicides or unintentional shootings.

* Thirteen states reported zero justifiable firearm homicides by civilians in 2012: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wyoming.

* Intended victims of violent crimes engaged in self-protective behavior with a firearm in only 0.8 percent of attempted and completed incidents between 2007 and 2011.

* Intended victims of property crimes engaged in self-protective behavior with a firearm in only 0.1 percent of attempted and completed incidents between 2007 and 2011.

* A significant percentage of the persons killed in a firearm justifiable homicide were known to the shooter, not random strangers. In 2012, 35.5 percent of persons killed in a firearm justifiable homicide were known to the shooter, 51.4 percent were strangers, and for 13.1 percent of persons the relationship was unknown.

* The shooters in justifiable homicides are overwhelmingly male. In 2012, of the 259 firearm justifiable homicides, 91.5 percent were committed by men.

* The 259 firearm justifiable homicides by private citizens in 2012 do not include shootings by law enforcement.

"Purchasing a gun may help enrich the firearms industry, but the facts show it is unlikely to increase your personal safety," Sugarmann adds. "In fact, in a nation of more than 300 million firearms, it is striking how rarely guns are used in self-defense."

The full study is available at http://www.vpc.org/studies/justifiable15.pdf.



568 Fatal Non-Self Defense Incidents
Involving Concealed Carry Killers Since 2007

VPC Research Documents

WASHINGTON, DC -- Research by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) has found that individuals with permits to carry concealed handguns in public are responsible for at least 568 fatal non-self defense incidents since 2007, a number that likely represents a fraction of the actual total.

Details on these fatal incidents can be found on Concealed Carry Killers (concealedcarrykillers.org), an online resource that provides examples of non-self defense killings involving private citizens with permits to carry concealed handguns in public. Information on these incidents is organized by state.

Overall, Concealed Carry Killers documents 568 fatal incidents since May 2007 in 36 states and the District of Columbia, resulting in the deaths of 750 people. Twenty-nine of the incidents were mass shootings (three or more victims), resulting in the deaths of 139 victims. At least 17 law enforcement officers died at the hands of Concealed Carry Killers since May 2007.

"Contrary to NRA and gun industry propaganda, these incidents show that all too often, concealed handgun permit holders end up fatally shooting others or themselves," states VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. "Unfortunately, there are tragic, real-world consequences when lax state laws allow virtually anyone to carry a concealed handgun in public."

In the vast majority of the 568 incidents documented (481, or 85 percent), the concealed carry permit holder either committed suicide (222), has already been convicted (196), perpetrated a murder-suicide (46), or was killed in the incident (17).

Of the 67 cases still pending, the majority (57) of Concealed Carry Killers have been charged with criminal homicide, four were deemed incompetent to stand trial, and six incidents are still under investigation. An additional 20 incidents were fatal unintentional shootings involving the gun of the concealed handgun permit holder.

Because there is no comprehensive recordkeeping of deaths involving concealed handgun permit holders and many states in fact bar the release of such information, the examples on Concealed Carry Killers are taken primarily from news reports and most likely represent a fraction of actual events.

Concealed Carry Killers includes detailed information for the majority of the 568 incidents, including (if available) the age of the perpetrator and the victim(s), the weapon used, the relationship(s) of those involved in the killing, and motives for the killing when stated.

Concealed Carry Killers does not include the small number of incidents that are eventually determined to involve self-defense or where no verdict is reached at trial. All such incidents are removed from the database's ongoing totals.

Below is a chart showing the status of all Concealed Carry Killers since May 2007:



Additional information, including a state-by-state breakdown of fatal incidents involving Concealed Carry Killers, is available at concealedcarrykillers.org. To review all deaths involving Concealed Carry Killers, click on "Total People Killed by Concealed Carry Killers."

The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. States United to Prevent Gun Violence (www.CeasefireUSA.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to making our families and communities safer. We are the only national state-led gun violence prevention group. Our mission is to support 28 state affiliates and to nurture new state organizations.


New Study Ranks 50 States By Gun Sense And Gun Deaths
The Violence Prevention Center

WASHINGTON, DC (June 20, 2015) -- States with weak gun violence prevention laws and higher rates of gun ownership have the highest overall gun death rates in the nation, according to a Violence Policy Center (VPC) analysis of new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Meanwhile, states with the lowest overall gun death rates have lower rates of gun ownership and some of the strongest gun violence prevention laws in the nation. However, even in these states the human toll of gun violence remains unacceptably high and far exceeds the gun death rate in most Western industrialized nations.

The VPC analysis is based on data newly released this week and refers to overall gun death rates in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available.

The five states with the highest per capita gun death rates in 2011 were Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, Wyoming, and Montana. Each of these states has extremely lax gun violence prevention laws as well as a higher rate of gun ownership. The state with the lowest gun death rate in the nation was Rhode Island, followed by Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. Each of these states has strong gun violence prevention laws and has a lower rate of gun ownership.

"Gun violence is preventable, and states can pass effective laws that will dramatically reduce gun death and injury," states VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann. "Our analysis also shows that states with weak gun violence prevention laws and easy access to guns pay a severe price with gun death rates far above the national average."

"Lawmakers in every state should roll up their sleeves and pass stronger legislation to prevent needless deaths from gun violence,"states Sue Hornik, executive director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence, a national umbrella group for state gun violence prevention organizations. "The safety of our families and communities is at stake."

A table of the states with the five highest gun death rates and the five lowest gun death rates is below.

The nationwide gun death rate was 10.38 per 100,000. The total number of Americans killed by gunfire rose to 32,351 in 2011 from 31,672 in 2010.

America's gun death rates -- both nationwide and in the states -- dwarf those of most other Western industrialized nations. The gun death rate in the United Kingdom in 2011 was 0.23 per 100,000 while in Australia it was 0.86 per 100,000.

States with the Five Highest Gun Death Rates
(Rank State Household Gun Ownership Gun Death Rate Per 100,000)

1 Louisiana 45.6 percent 18.91
2 Mississippi 54.3 percent 17.80
3 Alaska 60.6 percent 17.41
4 Wyoming 62.8 percent 16.92
5 Montana 61.4 percent 16.74

States with the Five Lowest Gun Death Rates
(Rank State Household Gun Ownership Gun Death Rate Per 100,000)

50 Rhode Island 13.3 percent 3.14
49 Hawaii 9.7 percent 3.56
48 Massachusetts 12.8 percent 3.84
47 New York 18.1 percent 5.11
46 New Jersey 11.3 percent 5.46
For a list of gun death rates in all 50 states, Visit Here.

State gun death rates are calculated by dividing the number of gun deaths by the total state population and multiplying the result by 100,000 to obtain the rate per 100,000, which is the standard and accepted method for comparing fatal levels of gun violence.

The VPC defined states with "weak" gun violence prevention laws as those that add little or nothing to federal law and have permissive laws governing the open or concealed carrying of firearms in public.

States with "strong" gun violence prevention laws were defined as those that add significant state regulation that is absent from federal law, such as restricting access to particularly hazardous and deadly types of firearms (for example, assault weapons), setting minimum safety standards for firearms and/or requiring a permit to purchase a firearm, and restricting the open and concealed carrying of firearms in public.

State gun ownership rates were obtained from the September 2005 Pediatrics article "Prevalence of Household Firearms and Firearm-Storage Practices in the 50 States and the District of Columbia: Findings From the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2002," which is the most recent comprehensive published data available on state gun ownership.

The Violence Policy Center(www.vpc.org) is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the Violence Policy Center on Facebookand follow @VPCinfo on Twitter.

States United to Prevent Gun Violence (www.supgv.org) is a national non-profit organization working to support state-based gun violence prevention groups and help build new state-led organizations. States United believes that all Americans deserve to live in a country free from the fear, threat, and devastation caused by gun violence.



Study Says More Guns Means Less Safety:
Watch What Happens When Regular People
Try to Use Handguns in Self-defense

Christopher Ingraham / The Washington Post

(July 28, 2015) -- In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, the National Rifle Association proposed putting more guns in schools. After a racist shot up a Charleston prayer group, an NRA board member argued for more guns in church. And now predictably, politicians and gun rights advocates are calling for guns in movie theaters after a loner killed two people at a theater in Louisiana.

The notion that more guns are always the solution to gun crime is taken seriously in this country. But the research shows that more guns lead to more gun homicides -- not less. And that guns are rarely used in self-defense.
Now a new study from researchers at Mount St. Mary's University sheds some light on why people don't use guns in self-defense very often. As it turns out, knowing when and how to apply lethal force in a potentially life-or-death situation is really difficult.

The study was commissioned by the National Gun Victims Action Council, an advocacy group devoted to enacting "sensible gun laws" that "find common ground between legal gun owners and non-gun owners that minimizes gun violence in our culture."

The study found that proper training and education are key to successfully using a firearm in self-defense: "carrying a gun in public does not provide self-defense unless the carrier is properly trained and maintains their skill level," the authors wrote in a statement.

They recruited 77 volunteers with varying levels of firearm experience and training, and had each of them participate in simulations of three different scenarios using the firearms training simulator at the Prince George's County Police Department in Maryland. The first scenario involved a carjacking, the second an armed robbery in a convenience store, and the third a case of suspected larceny.

They found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, people without firearms training performed poorly in the scenarios. They didn't take cover. They didn't attempt to issue commands to their assailants. Their trigger fingers were either too itchy -- they shot innocent bystanders or unarmed people, or not itchy enough -- they didn't shoot armed assailants until they were already being shot at.

The researchers released some fascinating video comparing how regular citizens and trained police officers performed in the scenarios. In the carjacking scenario, for instance, the police officer draws his gun, takes cover, and issues verbal commands to the would-be carjacker.



By contrast, here's what one average citizen did:
[Video clip]

The civilian just stands there, holding her gun limply at her side. She doesn't begin to raise it until the assailant has already fired his first shot.

In the armed robbery situation, again the officer ducks for cover and waits until bystanders are out of the way before engaging the assailants.

By contrast, here's how one civilian fared:
[Video clip]

The study, of course, has its limitations. Seventy-seven participants is a very small sample size, for instance. But its conclusion should be fairly uncontroversial: if you want to be able to use a gun in self-defense, you should be trained in how to do so.

The NRA has long emphasized the importance of training and safety in personal firearms use, and offers a series of courses dedicated to self-defense.
The NRA likes the idea of training so much that it's floated the idea of mandatory firearms training for school children.

On the other hand, it's opposed laws requiring mandatory training for gun purchases. Many states allow concealed carry without any training or permit for people as young as 16. Most states don't require gun owners or purchasers to even be licensed, much less trained. And a handful, like Arizona, have passed laws prohibiting localities from imposing their own training requirements.

There's a lot of middle ground between "repealing the Second Amendment" and "requiring school children to pass firearm training." Requiring gun owners to be trained and licensed, similar to what we require of say, automobile drivers, may be in a middle area that more people could agree on.

Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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