Self-Defense Statistics-When Stats Are Colored With Attitude
Focusing on guns is a terribly distorted way to look at self defense. The human right of self defense is inarguable. In an assault many of us will attempt to defend ourselves. Does physically attempting to escape count? I think it should. Kicking, punching, screaming for help counts as self defense. So does grabbing a big knife from the kitchen or a baseball bat from the closet. Use of force laws are blind to the method, if a defender uses excess force he is she is in trouble on that score alone.
So why does an organization calling itself the “Violence Policy Center” focus so exclusively on guns? And why does it not take a look at all kinds of self defense given it’s obvious necessity? Surely a good long hard look at those numbers would illustrate what works, what fails and what backfires. Somehow this is not their take. I for one find that a very telling point. So much so it motivates me to question many of their conclusions. Not the raw numbers, but hey anyone can cherry pick accurate numbers from good sources.
This illustrates where they go off the map—right from the VPC “About Us” section-
Firearms are the only consumer product not regulated by a federal agency for health and safety.
Seriously? Am I really to believe each and every consumer product in my home is regulated by the Feds except my firearms? Not just for safety, but health too? I was quite doubtful and so I went looking to see what might turn up. Take a peek at this.
Most Americans rest easy under the incorrect assumption that the products they use are all subject to vigorous federal scrutiny. They presume that every item, from lawn mowers to cooking implements and baby toys, is poked, prodded, and tested by one of the numerous federal agencies that were created to protect the public.
In fact, the actual product safety picture in the United States is quite different. While several federal agencies have jurisdiction to oversee a variety of consumer products, they actually regulate comparatively few. For instance, although over 10,000 consumer products are within the purview of the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the agency has issued only fifteen sets of regulations under the Consumer Product Safety Act in over 30 years.1 Actual regulation plays a minor role in the protection of American consumers.
Most products are not covered by existing regulations, but by an honor system. This system is not based just on the goodwill of the product manufacturers. It assures compliance by confronting manufacturers with a two-pronged threat. The first prong is the possibility that the federal agencies may begin to regulate, and thus restrict, a consumer product should it establish a bad track record.2 The second prong is the possibility of crushing tort liability from private suits if products are not made “reasonably” well. Together, the dual threats of federal regulation (sometimes executed) and product liability suits have contributed to better and safer goods for consumers over time.
Let’s think further. Consumer products are regulated for health and safety for when they are used as intended. And gun malfunctions mostly cause it to fail to shoot, or perhaps reload. There is no big consumer safety threat from badly designed guns. There is from poor design in baby cribs. But not from guns. It’s a logical pretzel twist to take that concept and apply it to the manufacturing and ownership of guns. Cars are highly regulated, and we don’t try to stop DUI drivers at the car factory or dealership. Again the advocacy shows and IMHO not in a good way.
A new paper from the Violence Policy Center states that “for the five-year period 2007 through 2011, the total number of self-protective behaviors involving a firearm by victims of attempted or completed violent crimes or property crimes totaled only 338,700.” That comes to an annual average of 67,740 — not nothing, but nowhere near the N.R.A.’s 2 million or 2.5 million.
Given the lack of academic rigor applied, lets go ahead and dismiss the Lott study & Keck numbers of two million plus. And so let’s also admit the VPC is making every effort to present a very conservative number of defensive gun use. DGU.
“Not nothing” Quite the diminutive description of tens of thousands of incidents. The VPC is an avid anti gun advocacy site. Many questions remain. Some say this is a number we can’t ever consider accurate. They might be right, although arguing the number is really lower would be the far and away harder argument to prove.
When you look at the list of publications at VPC you see the depth of the advocacy factor. This is an organization whose only published interest in active self defense is to present guns as a bad idea. When I look at the name of the organization I would expect an objective effort to define and asses self defense by the ordinary person against violent assaults and attempted murders. They appear to be focused on guns, and strictly against them.
So why no apparent interest in unarmed self defense incidents? In principle self defense is the same regardless of the weapon or lack of one.
As a self defense rights advocate, for the armed or the unarmed. I sense a rather skeptical view from the VPC about self defense at all. They add characterizations to so many of the statistics. They ignore self defense as an option for the innocent under assault. .
1. We don’t know exactly how frequently defensive gun use occurs.
2. A conservative estimate of the order of magnitude is tens of thousands of times a year; 100,000 is not a wild gun-nut fantasy.
3. Many gun owners (I am not one, but I know plenty) focus not on statistical probabilities, but on a worst-case scenario: They’re in trouble, and they want a fighting chance.
I find that “worst case scenario” to be a perfectly legitimate point of view at the most conservative number acceptable in these discussions. The stridently anti gun VPC number. Let’s take a look at crime numbers from the FBI.
What should one make of the crime clock? Or the DGU incidents? That’s up to each of us. The
FBI general interest in disseminating these numbers includes helping us understand the day to day risk of being a victim, and assisting police in choosing priorities. To me any national statistics are just the start. We each have to consider our own local conditions and personal circumstance. Our risks, and our aptitudes. our willingness and ability to use whatever we decide upon really well. Irresponsible use of an alarm system wastes police resources and results in fines. Bars on the windows intended to keep a burglar or robber out must yield in a big hurry and possible panic in the event of a fire. And so on. May none of you reading this ever have to implement those careful choices.