Researcher Reaffirms: At Least 760,000 Defensive Gun Uses a Year

As the U.S. Senate takes up gun legislation in Washington, DC , Dr. Gary Lampert (L), a co
Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

On February 17 Florida State University criminology professor Gary Kleck responded to recent criticism of his past studies on defensive gun uses (DGUs) by showing why the criticism is wrong and why a minimum of 760,000 DGUs each year is still a viable claim.

For any uninitiated readers, Kleck’s work on DGUs entered into the public dialogue in 1993 with the publication of the National Self-Defense Survey (NSDS). He conducted this survey with his colleague Marc Gertz, finding a minimum of 760,000 DGUs annually.

He and Gertz then refuted criticism of these findings in 1997, 1998, and 2001.

On January 14, 2015, new criticisms against Kleck’s DGU findings were published Politico Magazine. The critics–investment counselors Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes–described “defensive gun ownership” as a “myth” and part of an “utterly false” scenario in which armed Americans actually believe they will use their guns to save lives instead of take them.

DeFlippis and Hughes then set about using arguments from 1997 to argue anew against Kleck’s work on DGUs.

On February 17 Politico Magazine published Kleck’s response to DeFlippis and Hughes; a response in which Kleck makes clear that he’s not only heard these same criticisms before but has also refuted them. He shows that DeFlippis and Hughes’ lack of training in survey methods is betrayed by the fact that “they believe that it’s perfectly plausible that surveys generate enormous over-estimates of crime-related experiences.”

In reality, Kleck explains that just the opposite is true–“survey respondents underreport crime victimization experiences.”

Kleck showed how this was especially evident in the work he did in the early 1990s where respondents who used a gun defensively not only had to admit using the gun but, in most cases, had to also admit a degree of criminal behavior inasmuch as they had the gun with them in a public place before concealed carry was as widespread as it is in 2015. In other words, a lawful use of a firearm was likely carried out by someone who possessed the firearm in a manner for which there was not legal sanction–therefore, even people who used a gun for self-defense rather than crime were likely to keep quiet about doing so.

Kleck then explained that he stands by the DGU estimates he and Gertz published and will continue to do until someone can present the one thing no critic of that work has presented to date: namely, “empirical evidence” to the contrary.

With that said, the estimated minimal number of times a gun is used for defensive purposes in the United States each year remains at 760,000.

Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at


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