Defensive Firearms Use

While Slug’s illustrations are primarily intended to get a laugh rather than accurately comment on Cecil’s columns, as a pro-gun person I was a little dismayed by this week’s illustration: the implication being that defensive gun use is more likely to harm bystanders than bad guys. Especially since the gist of Cecil’s column was that there are conflicting statistics of dubious reliability on the subject.


I have no comment about Slug’s illustration, but I had a thought about defensive gun use. If we find that a high percentage of gangsters carry guns, and we observe that gangsters also get shot frequently (by other gangsters), this would be evidence against the deterrent effect of firearms.

Or would it? I guess you also have to consider that gangsters have more people wanting to shoot them than most people do, which could account for a higher frequency of getting shot. I guess what I’m getting at here is a question: does defensive firearms use work for gangsters?

Slug’s illustration was great! I love the face on the baby

The surveys aren’t ‘unreliable’ because they’re self-reported. You just have to analyze them a little. I think the gun-toting criminals were just talking about other gun-toting criminals. ‘Gangster culture’ or whatnot

I don’t think this is true. Wouldn’t the relevant question be “do gangsters with guns get shot less frequently than gangsters without guns?” I.e., does carrying a gun reduce a gangster’s risk of being shot?

In effect, I think what you’re looking at is the deterrent effect of not being a gangster. This strikes me as separable from the gun-carrying question.

Another interesting route of inquiry would be to compare the average lifespan of felons in countries with loose gun restrictions vs. in countries with strict restrictions. It could be argued that even if easy access to guns leads to more shootings, since many of these shootings are criminal-on-criminal, society actually benefits.

Comparing country to country isn’t really usefull, since culture plays a big role in it.

Can you qualify —the availability of arms to minors.
Automatic weapons should be totally outlawed. PERIOD.
Is that still a word with which to finish a sentence ?
When, what, where? Years ago- - -Our Founding fathers were fighting for freedom from England.

Later, if an “indian” seemed to be a threat, the settler was hide-bound
to defend his house and home. He had a flint-lock rifle, maybe and he had
the right to defend his family. The whole place was lawless- - - let’s move on.

Time passed - -there was the Continental Congress. More time passed.
Somebody dropped by with a “shooting stick”- - -“hey that ol dingus might
stop a rabbit”- - - trade for a Beaver pelt, and you got a - - -the rest of the
self-and-de-fensive world. Them what has de powah !

So, Dear Cecil, please help me to put my feeble sad thoughts where they will
do the most good ,as my Nanny said, referring to “the flat-o-the-hand”.

“Now, who can argue with that? Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, but it expressed a courage that is little seen in this day and age.”


“If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.”

Another side of this to consider is that the laws which allow civilians to bear arms only has an actual effect on those people who choose to obey those laws, and those people are probably the least likely to use a gun for the wrong reason (anything other than self defense).

I’ve seen the gangster term thrown around here. Do you think that if a state passes a law saying that civilians aren’t allowed to have guns that the gangsters will turn in all their guns immediately? Of that if a state passes a law saying that civilians are allowed to have guns that the gangsters will all rejoice and go out and buy their first guns?

I think when we talk about arming civilians, we’re generally talking about arming law abiding citizens – people who already obey the law. And those law abiding citizens need the guns for what? To defend themselves against people who already owned guns illegally in the first place.

The difference between an “armed society” and an unarmed one doesn’t refer to the criminal element – they’re armed either way around. It’s the noncriminal element we’re talking about arming. (By criminal here, I really mean violent crime, not littering or driving in a carpool lane…)

All of that being said, whether your polite members of society are armed or not, I’m guessing that most violent gun crimes are committed with an illegally owned gun (probably stolen, perhaps recently), or with vintage guns for which there are no strict laws (at least in California where I’m from).

I used to have a roommate in a house who kept guns in every room – he said it was for self defense, perhaps against the government. If general violence ever broke out or martial law was ever declared, he would be able to defend his property. A WWII sniper rifle, several handguns, and a shotgun made up his collection of “home protection.” For my money, I’m guessing a shotgun is the best thing for inside-the-house defense, but I don’t have a lot of personal experience in this area. He was a Vietnam vet, but I don’t know how many of those guns were legally owned.

One person in my personal experience possessed a gun illegally with full knowledge of the police, and they did not do anything about it. He was a crazy man who had a record with the police – he’d been arrested previously with illegal firearms in his possession, and it’s on his record that he’s hit a cop. I had a restraining order on this wild man (250 yards) which didn’t stop him from appearing at my work, waving a loaded pistol at me from the front seat of his car. When I drove away, he followed me to the police station and then left.

When I told the police that he violated his restraining order, came to my work, pointed a gun at me, and followed me around, the police couldn’t do anything. A friend of the man told the police that he is currently in possession of three illegally owned firearms, that he keeps them loaded at all times, that he carries them in the front seat of his car, and that he’s doing all of this in violation of a restraining order. They said that unless he actually fired his weapon at me, they can’t do anything.

So, I’ve got to wonder if having gun laws even does anything. They certainly don’t make me feel any safer. I might feel safer if I had my own gun to defend myself against someone like him, but I’ve never owned one.

Also wanted to mention, since someone asked about comparing gun crime between countries with different gun laws - I recall hearing (and since I “heard” it I don’t have a cite) that Sweden (or Switzerland, maybe) not only allows, but requires, homeowners to be trained in and to own a fully automatic weapon.

I believe the reasoning here is two-fold:

  1. People won’t eagerly break into a house if they know for a fact that the owner is trained in and owns an automatic weapon,
  2. The country is hard to invade through conventional means if every property owner has an automatic weapon and knows how to use it.

It’s often mentioned that there’s very little gun crime in that country. Anyone got a reliable cite for this?

Of course, one area of problem is, in fact, that someone with a gun who is overall “law-abiding” can still have road rage, and decide to show that sunnabitch who drove through a stop sign.

Anyhow, Sean, you’ve been around a while but don’t post much. This was a thoughtful and thought-provoking post, and I hope we’ll see more from you!

You’re thinking of Switzerland. Reason (2) that you list is closest to the approach that the Swiss take. The Swiss have no standing army, but all men are required to do military training and keep a government-issued gun at home.

Some basic info from the BBC:

Flipbustle - Civilian ownership of fully automatic weapons (otherwise known as Assault Weapons) is already illegal except for the very small number of persons who have submitted themselves to extensive criminal and personal background checks as well as paid thousands of dollars in taxes, fees, and the cost of purchasing one of the very few fully automatic weapons available for civilian purchase (all such weapons are registered, old, and generally in the hands of collectors).

CK Dexter Haven - An armed person who is so out of control as to succumb to murderous road rage is either suffering a psychotic break, or has more than likely already committed numerous acts of violence such that his or her right to carry a firearm would be revoked and they would be carrying illegally anyway. It is possible that a normally law abiding person with a firearm can lose it or can act irresponsibly with a firearm, but that is generally an aberration, not the norm. And in the case of road rage, which is more dangerous, a 1 oz bullet, or a 1 ton car?

As for DGUs, remember that a DGU need not involve a victim shooting a gun, or involve a victim facing certain death. In many cases, the display of a firearm is enough to cause a mugger to change course and leave the victim alone. A home invader hearing the sound of a pump action shotgun being loaded, or a semi-auto pistol having it’s slide racked is enough to get them to leave.

Self defense advocates encourage people to call police if they have to display or draw their weapon, but not everyone does, so many such DGUs go unreported. Also, police departments might not note if the person reporting a thwarted crime displayed or brandished a firearm unless a shot was fired (such details might be in the write-up, but not in reported statistics). This makes getting good numbers very hard.

Here is a site that reports on DGUs in the news.

Still, even if the low number of 100,000+ DGUs a year is it (although I suspect the actual number is much closer to 1 million), that is still 3 times the number of deaths from firearms every year.
BTW Cecil, thanks for the fair and even treatment here, it is appreciated.

As MadRocketScientist pointed out, that is an aberration, not the norm. Whereas a person illegally carrying the gun is far more likely to commit the violent crime. Even waving a gun and pointing a gun at someone is a crime.

IIRC, it’s a crime to carry an UNloaded and unregistered weapon within the cab of a vehicle while ammunition for that weapon is also in the cab of the vehicle. I think one or the other has to be in the trunk. It’s possible this law has changed recently though.

So for a law abiding citizen, who has a gun in a locking container in his trunk and the ammunition in a separate container, to shoot someone in another car is … inconceivable. You’d have to get out of the car, open the trunk, unlock and open the container, unlock and open the ammunition container, load the gun, and then drive off looking for the other driver again. All while probably in plain view of other drivers.

A more likely scenario would be someone gets into a jealous rage and takes a gun to either scare someone or shoot someone. I think anger over jealous rage can last long enough to retrieve gun, load gun, and drive to a destination. I think a law abiding citizen getting cut off on the freeway would have a hard time retaliating with a weapon other than his car.

But if you shift the focus to illegally carried guns, people who may have a loaded weapon inside their car in easy reach, I think it’s much more likely for them to shoot someone based on road rage. I know I often wish for a rocket launcher button on the dashboard of my car.

I only wasn’t posting much because I hadn’t ponied up the $ for the membership, but finally did to chime in on the earwax thread. Now that I can post whenever, I just might.

“But if you shift the focus to illegally carried guns, people who may have a loaded weapon inside their car in easy reach, I think it’s much more likely for them to shoot someone based on road rage. I know I often wish for a rocket launcher button on the dashboard of my car.”

Do keep in mind that even in states with Shall Issue, a person with a carry permit has gone through a state and federal background check and has more than likely been educated on the rights and responsibilities of firearms ownership and defensive use, as well as having gone through some training (specifics vary from place to place).

People who go through all the hassle to get a permit are usually calm, even tempered people who are not interested in losing something they paid a lot of money for (fees for the permit, the cost of the firearms, the costs of training, etc.). The safe and responsible carry of firearms is an expensive affair, and when we hear about a person permitted to carry abusing the right (such as brandishing or discharging without just cause), typically they have a history of mental illness that was missed due to privacy laws, or they are cops/ex-cops.

Good info to add to this conversation.

That still goes a ways to convincing me that legalizing gun ownership through license is not likely to increase the amount of crime by much (except for those with the mental illnesses as you point out), because whether or not it’s legal, people who would use the guns illegally will find an illegal way to get the gun.

“because whether or not it’s legal, people who would use the guns illegally will find an illegal way to get the gun”

Exactly. As you stated before, gun control laws only effect those who are normally lawful.

Why would guns deter crime, if the scenario is that victim shows you their weapon, doesn’t shoot you, and you just walk away.

Isn’t the only result that the criminal has to make more attempts?

On the next attempt, maybe the victim won’t just show the gun and let you walk away, they may use it. Perhaps it will make you think twice, or at least learn to spot when someone is carrying.