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I posted a link to this story of a 70 year old man defending his wife from an attacker who broke through the front door of their home.  He retrieved a firearm and shot the attacker several times.  I received a comment on the piece, to which I responded.  Here’s the thread so far:

Peter Collins: When are you going to post all of the stories of people shooting their kids, or their wives or husbands, or themselves.

You are 9 times more likely to be killed with a gun you own than to kill an intruder or mugger or other criminal.

So, this man killed an intruder – that means nine other gun owners were killed by their own guns.

The odds are against you, 9 to 1. Only a fool bets that longshot with his life.

KB: I don’t have to. ABCNNBCBS and all the other major news outlets already take care of that. What they DON’T typically report are successful defensive gun uses, leading to the illusion that they seldom happen. Even the CDC recently admitted, however, that they happen far more often than most people think.

That news was also not carried by the media beyond a very brief mention.

Now as to your 9:1 ratio assertion, do you have a citation for that, or do you “just know it’s true”? Because the last time I heard something like that, it was 43:1 from a thoroughly discredited “study” performed by a Dr. Arthur Kellerman many years ago.

PC: The media don’t cover so-called ‘defensive gun uses’ very much because they are relatively rare events. The only study, and it is on-going, of this, using actual evidence and verifying the events, finds that guns are used about 2000 times per year in the US to prevent, stop, or mitigate a violent crime. The group doing the study is not a gun-control group, and their definition of ‘defensive gun use’ is broader than I think is justified, but they follow a data-based approach and they are willing to do the hard work to find an accurate figure. If guns were used regularly to prevent or stop crimes, it would be all over the news – when it does happen, the “good guy with a gun” scenario gets huge coverage.

The figure you question came from the Miller study, a peer-reviewed and unassailable study published in one of the trauma journals.

The Kellerman study, far from being “thoroughly discredited,” is a model of excellent methodology combined with careful use of data. I am aware of no serious critique of the study from any qualified source. The conclusions from that study, though, do not really bear on the question at hand. Kellerman was studying intentional homicide only, and that doesn’t provide an answer to the question of whether gun ownership generally confers more or less safety than risk. If the results of a perfectly good study are applied to aquestion that the study did not ask, it is not likely to provide valid or valuable information.

KB: “The only study, and it is on-going, of this , using actual evidence and verifying the events, finds that guns are used about 2000 times per year in the US to prevent, stop, or mitigate a violent crime.” Which study is this? I noticed you didn’t provide a citation.

How about this one? Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control that states:

“Defensive uses of guns by crime victims is a common occurrence, [my emphasis – ed.] although the exact number remains disputed (Cook and Ludwig, 1996; Kleck, 2001a). Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year (Kleck, 2001a), in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008 (BJS, 2010). On the other hand, some scholars point to radically lower estimate of only 108,000 annual defensive uses based on the National Crime Victimization Survey [my emphasis – ed.] (Cook et al., 1997). The variation in these numbers remains a controversy in the field. The estimate of 3 million defensive uses per year is based on an extrapolation from a small number of responses taken from more than 19 national surveys. The former estimate of 108,000 is difficult to interpret because respondents were not asked specifically about defensive gun use. [Again, my emphasis.]

“A different issue is whether defensive uses of guns, however numerous or rare they may be, are effective in preventing injury to the gunwielding crime victim. Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was ‘used’ by the crime victim in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.” [Emphasis, well, you know.]

The LOWEST estimate of defensive gun use from a credible source that I’ve EVER seen was from the National Crime Victimization Survey at 80,000 DGU’s per year, 28,000 fewer than noted in the excerpt above. That’s still over 32 times your estimate. That’s on average 219 per day. What is a defensive gun use? Any time a person defends himself or someone else by so much as THREATENING to use a firearm to stop an attack. No shots need be fired, and in the overwhelming majority of these cases, none are. No blood, no news story. But tell the people who defended themselves that they didn’t need a gun. Go ahead, I’ll wait. But The Other Side™ seems to believe that if the defender did not shoot, or more accurately, kill the offender, then it doesn’t count.

Also, I noticed that you still haven’t cited your source for the 9:1 ratio from your first comment. Got a link to that “unassailable” Miller study? I think you misunderstand what “peer reviewed” actually means.

Oh, and Kellerman? He revised his own estimate down to 2.7 times more likely. Basically debunking himself.

PC: Your “study” is a piece of paid-for propaganda that relies on nothing that anyone could conceivably call evidence.

And your slur on Kellerman? No, he revised the application of his conclusion to a different set of circumstances.

If you actually read the study, rather than the claims made by gun fundy websites, you would know that.

And when you claim the number to be between 80,000 and 3 million, you lose all credibility. If you cannot even narrow it down within 2 orders of magnitude, your numbers are clearly phony.

KB: I really enjoy these discussions. So a piece produced by the National Academies of Science is “a piece of paid-for propaganda” because you say so. Interesting. But your uncited, “peer-reviewed” “Miller study” isn’t, because reasons. Kellerman’s 43:1 conclusion is gospel, but when he revised it to 2.1:1 it’s because he used a different set of circumstances – DUE TO THE FACT THAT HIS ORIGINAL CIRCUMSTANCES WERE LAUGHABLE. He’s already been proven unreliable. Why should I trust his revised numbers?

You object to the fact that the estimates between 80,000 and 3 million defensive gun uses means they’re not credible, but ignore the fact that the absolute low end, from United States Bureau of Justice surveys that DO NOT ASK EXPLICITLY ABOUT DEFENSIVE GUN USE still represent almost 220 defensive gun uses a DAY. You simply dismiss these as superfluous.

If you’d actually read the literature — all of it, not just the stuff you agree with — you would conclude that defensive gun usage is real, it’s effective, and it’s far more common than the general public is led to believe.

And that’s why I post these stories. The New York Times certainly won’t.

At this point I expect one or more of three things in descending order of likelihood:

1) He’ll respond with more mouth-frothing
2) He’ll report me for violating the “Be nice, be respectful” Quora policy
3) He’ll go away

4) He’ll delete his thread.
That didn’t take long:

Kellerman revised the conclusion when the model for the study was revised – that’s akin to revising the number when you revise from mph to kph. If the ratio remained identical under different parameters, that would be questionable. Sorry you don’t understand how statistics work.

Your claim that the “absolute low end” is 70,000 ignores so many studies that show much, much lower numbers. I specifically cited the on-going GVA study which showed around 2000 verifiable cases per year. That’s lower than you claim is the “absolute low end.” Now, what did you say about only reading studies that support your position?

Here’s a challenge – you provide evidence of 110 defensive gun uses, in the USA, on any day in the last 10 years. That’s half what you claim is the ”low end,” so it shouldn’t be hard at all for you to prove. Not a survey, not some poll – actual evidence. I’ll accept if you provide the date, the time, the place, and the name of the victim or the person who used the gun.

So, how about it? Can you prove half your claimed l ”low end,” for any day in the last 10 years?

Oh, we’re still playing? OK. What was Kellerman’s initial model, and what were the objections to it? What was the revised model? I’m quite aware of how statistics work. I’m an engineer by trade.
The “absolute low end” is 80,000 by a survey that doesn’t specifically ask about defensive gun usage. You keep skipping right over that. Don’t you trust your government?

Your “GVA study” again is without a link to the source. If it’s the one I’m thinking of, the “verifiable cases” were media reports of defensive gun uses. Which kind of makes my point – the media doesn’t report on DGUs unless someone is shot or killed. And — if they’re covered at all — most of these reports end up on page B7 of the local fishwrap, not on the national nightly news.

Can I cite 110 defensive gun uses in a day? How am I to do this if the media doesn’t report them? If the people who stopped a crime in progress without firing a shot didn’t report it to the police? For example, the woman at the highway rest stop who confronted a man holding a coil of rope and convinced him that she was not going to be his next victim by showing him her pistol? Tell her she didn’t need it, and she was far more likely to have it used on her than to use it to protect her life. Tell that to the people standing outside a store in Minneapolis armed with rifles protecting it from rioters. It wasn’t looted or burned. Is that one DGU or twelve?

How many defensive gun uses is so low that it makes it OK to disarm the victims? Tell that 70 year old man that it would have been better to have let the attacker beat his wife to death rather than use a gun to defend her, or he could have tried to stop the man and there would be two old people dead or in the hospital. Tell him that the presence of that gun in his house made it 43 times more likely that he or his wife would be killed — not shot to death with his own weapon, but killed by any means — which is what Kellerman’s initial model did.

It’s been fun playing with you, but I think we’re done now.

It’s still going. And going.

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