The DGU Numbers

MikeB points to a recent bulletin in the Harvard Injury Control Research Center (Joyce Funded), suggesting that criminal use far exceeds civilian defensive gun use.  It’s really a difficult number to come up with, because there doesn’t seem to be much good data on the amount of unreported crime.  But just looking at some bare statistics, you have approximately 2.2 million residential burlaries a year, of which about 20 percent will be done while the resident is home.   Presumably about 40% of those households will have guns.  If you figure even half of those households have residents who become aware of the breakin, that’s 88,000 DGUs right there.

But either way, some of the conclusions in this bulleten are pretty sweeping, like this:

By contrast it appears that the large majority of the self-defense gun uses reported using Approach 1 are socially undesirable; they are largely escalating arguments, or preemptive gun use out of fear rather than a response to an attempted crime. Most would appropriately be missed by Approach 2, and should not be considered genuine self-defense gun uses. They are actually reports of inappropriate or criminal gun use.

So basically, after arguing that there’s quite a lot of self-presentaiton bias, which is true, we’re going to conclude that just about any DGU reported by Kleck’s method is socially undesirable, and therefore should be considered criminal use.

3 thoughts on “The DGU Numbers”

  1. So if I take all arguments made in the article as absolutely correct, 80,000 people per year should be denied their human right of self defense because criminals commit even more crime than that? WTF?

    Analogy: Many more people abuse pot, heroin, cocaine and pills than benefit from their medicinal use. Ban medicinal use of painkillers.

  2. The problem is the “researchers” won’t judge what is self-defense:

    “Second, there is no accepted understanding of what constitutes a criminal or a self-defense gun use. For example, criminals often believe that their gun use during a crime was in self-defense.

    The National Research
    Council reviewed the scientific literature on self-defense gun use in 2005 and concluded that “self-defense is an ambiguous term” (p.106) and that whether one is a defender or a perpetrator may depend on perspective.8”

    Which is completely bogus since self defense is a legal term. Also, most state laws specifically deny a claim of self defense if the person was engaged in criminal activity at the time, i.e., get in a shooting over your drugs, regardless of the threat, you can’t claim self defense.

    Self-defense is simple – you are threatened with death or serious bodily injury in a place you have a lawful right to be and are not engaging in criminal activity, then acts taken to defend yourself are self defense. Defense by non-deadly force would be appropriate for lesser threats.

  3. It’s simple, but it’s difficult to measure. Especially defensive users. If someone breaks into my house, and I call the police, and wait in my room with a gun at the ready until the police arrive, that’s really a DGU, but I doubt the police are going to note it as such because there’s been no element of a potential crime. That’ll get logged in the record as an ordinary residential burglary. Unless you shoot someone, it’s not likely to end up in a record.

    I had a friend who had to pull a gun on a group of kids threatening him with a taser. Police were called but didn’t bother to show up to take a report. They didn’t care if no shots were fired. How often does that happen?

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