Guns in the hands of civilians save many lives every year, though it’s hard to say exactly how many. In their recent report on defensive gun use for the Cato Institute, Clayton Cramer and David Burnett identify a range of estimates of how often civilians use a gun in self-defense. It appears to happen at least 100,000 times per year. That’s the low end estimate, based on the reports of defensive gun uses by victims of crime. But how many defensive uses never get reported? Some studies put the real number of defensive uses per year in the millions. In any case, in the overwhelming majority of these cases, the civilians who use guns in self defense do so successfully.
Cramer and Burnett identified nearly 5,000 news stories about defensive uses of guns over an eight-year period, and in only 36 of those stories did a defender get killed by a criminal. In another 210 of those stories, a defender was shot but not killed. [“Tough Targets: When Criminals Face Armed Resistance from Citizens,” Cato Institute, February 2012.]